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 as a roster are a deeper team than they were a year ago.
Explanation: Sometimes a championship team is not just the team with the most talent, but the one who can withstand the most injuries—or more easily, the healthiest team. Depth wasn’t too big of a factor in the Steelers’ 9-6-1 record last season, but nevertheless, there is a discussion to be had as to whether or not they are deeper than last year.
When you’re talking about depth, you’re not just talking about bodies, but names and performances. I think they are better-equipped in enough key areas to posit that they are deeper now than they were a year ago.
That starts at quarterback, where both of their backups should be better than they were a year ago, and you can argue that the depth here cost them a game last season. The inside linebacker and cornerback depth is certainly better as well, not to mention the running backs, who are now more experienced.
The elephant in the room—or rather across the country—is Antonio Brown, but the additions of Donte Moncrief and Diontae Johnson, and the growth of James Washingon, may make them a deeper wide receiver core in 2019 than last year, even if a bit less talented.
There aren’t enough bodies, though, that can actually replace Brown. He is, or was, the best wide receiver in the league with his connection with Ben Roethlisberger. JuJu Smith-Schuster might be able to be the number one, but there isn’t going to be a one-two paring like they had last year.
And the offensive line depth took a hit with the trade of Marcus Gilbert. Matt Feiler could be adequate as a full-time starter, but that hurts the overall depth as well. Safety is another position that appears shallower after they carried six players into the season a year ago.
Meanwhile, there is a pretty big hole at the one starting position with the biggest injury concern: tight end. If Vance McDonald stays healthy, Jesse James’ absence won’t be such a big deal, or at least doesn’t have to be. But if he misses time, they have nobody they can safely count on to step up as we currently stand, which is even more important in the post-Brown offense.