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 and should make use of their seven-DB ‘dollar’ defensive package.
Explanation: For the first time at least that I’m aware of, the Steelers played a ‘dollar’ defense very sparingly last season, which featured seven defensive backs on the field together. Tom Bradley recently hinted that this package was mostly abandoned later on, and largely because of injuries, suggesting that it could be back and more prevalent this year.
There are more pass-catchers at more positions than at ever before, and yet we are still seeing the number of wide receivers used at a time continue to rise. Almost every team’s base offensive package now consists of three wide receivers, and four- and five-receiver sets are now commonplace. Even the Steelers have adapted to this.
The more pass-catchers, and the more wide receivers, that you have to face, the more defensive backs you want on the field in obvious passing situations. And more and more situations are becoming ‘obvious’ passing opportunities.
The Steelers should have the personnel to run it this year, which is the deciding factor, I think. Marcus Allen could be the dime back, with Cameron Sutton the dollar. The latter was already in that role last year. Morgan Burnett was of course the dime. And it could be a way to get Justin Layne or Artie Burns some opportunities.
The Steelers, won’t, and shouldn’t, make much use of the dollar defense for one simple reason, and that is because their inside linebacker group has been greatly boosted since last season in terms of athleticism, and arguably talent, the latter of which has to be tested and verified.
If you have linebackers like Devin Bush and Mark Barron who can cover well, then you don’t need to bring a seventh defensive back on the field. You don’t even need the sixth defensive back as much. If they choose to get Bush and Barron on the field together, it will be arguably the most athletic pair of 3-4 inside linebackers they’ve ever had, the latter, of course, starting out as a safety. Which partially makes this a question of semantics.