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: Diontae Spencer is the best darkhorse candidate to win a roster spot.
Explanation: The CFL standout has been drawing praise throughout the spring so far after he signed with the Steelers as a Reserve/Future signing in January. The slight wide receiver is capable of serving as a return man, but there is a deep group at his position.
Spencer has more experience than either Eli Rogers or Ryan Switzer at returning. With Rogers and Switzer making each other redundant, if Spencer can crack the return man role, he can easily make one or the other expendable.
But he isn’t just a return guy. He has been talked about by a number of different people throughout OTAs and minicamp. If I’m not mistaken, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger might have even mentioned him, which is a pretty big selling point.
And the reality is that there are not a tone of great fringe candidates to make the team this year, I don’t think, some of whom will include players whose likely replacements were just signed in free agency or selected in the draft.
Given that Spencer has to win the return job, most likely, to win a roster spot, it’s hard to give him the edge when you have at least three players just at wide receiver, including rookie Diontae Johnson, who can also be the return man. The Steelers have tried the return specialist, too, and it hasn’t really worked out since Stephon Logan. Chris Rainey was okay, but that was about it. Jacoby Jones was awful, and Dri Archer was barely approaching a modicum of competence prior to that.
There are some other interesting names. You can include running back Trey Edmunds, who can make it as a fourth running back because of his special teams ability, and they have kept four running backs often enough. At safety, you have a number of interesting names, including Kameron Kelly, Marcelis Branch, and the two rookie undrafted free agents. At least one of them figures to be bound to emerge.