The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will carry six wide receivers into the 2019 regular season.
Explanation: Historically, wide receiver has tended to be a position within the roster where the number of players can vary, typically between four to six, though sometimes even higher. In recent years, the team has usually had six.
It’s not as though the wide receiver position is becoming any less important. As long as the Steelers have six wide receivers who are worthy of being on a roster, they will be carrying six, and right now they figure to be on pace for that number.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is on the top of the depth chart, but it branches out after that, with Donte Moncrief and James Washington seemingly competing for the starting role opposite him. rookie Diontae Johnson could emerge in that group as well, while the position is rounded out by Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer as slot options.
If this group makes it through training camp healthy, it’s hard to see that not being what the depth chart looks like in the regular season. Add in the fact that at least one of them will be doing returns and another will probably be the backup and you increase the probability of that number.
Still, there are some details that must be worked out when it comes to positional utility. It would be stunning if the team carried fewer than nine offensive linemen given the strength of the group, for example. The secondary is always a candidate to have at least 10 players, if not more. The linebacker group could hit 10 this year as well after they drafted three, even with the release of Jon Bostic.
If the roster ends up breaking that way, there will only be room for five wide receivers, so it will come down to special teams roles, and somebody like Rogers or Switzer could be made redundant by Johnson if he is able to contribute right off the bat. They have handed return roles to rookies before.