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: Fullback Roosevelt Nix should work as a two-way player for the Steelers.
Explanation: An undersized defensive lineman in college, Roosevelt Nix originally came into the NFL as an inside linebacker prospect with the Atlanta Falcons before they moved him to fullback. The Steelers also originally signed him to play linebacker before moving him. They are now trying out rookie Sutton Smith as a dual-position player.
First of all, why not? The credo around here has long been ‘the more you can do’. Nix has played linebacker, played on defense before, so it’s not like it’s a new concept to him. He certainly plays on special teams—frankly, still plays at fullback—with a defensive player’s mentality.
More immediately, though, the reality is that the fullback position is seemingly becoming less and less relevant again in the Steelers’ offense. His 111 offensive snaps played in 2018 were the lowest of his career, 87 of which were on run-blocking plays. He never had fewer than 109 run-blocking snaps prior to this past year, even though he didn’t miss any time.
Even though he is a standout special teams player, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make sure he can offer as much value as possible to the team to make sure that he sticks. He can work both ends of the backs-on-backers drill, and even if he never sees time on defense, he could be an emergency option.
Or, they can just use him as a fullback more. Behind James Conner and Benny Snell, Jr., they ostensibly have the personnel to allow them to do some more power running, and we know that Nix is capable of rooting out a linebacker in the hole. He doesn’t need to be on the other end of that skirmish as well.
This might actually have made more sense last year, but they just added three inside linebackers in the draft and free agency this offseason, including a couple of premium players at that spot. His special teams ability already keeps his job secure, and Sutton Smith is never going to be a threat to take his fullback job away.