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: Vince Williams will log the most defensive snaps at inside linebacker on the roster.
Explanation: In each of the past two seasons since he has become a full-time starter, Vince Williams has logged more snaps than any other inside linebacker, though there’s a major caveat in that with Ryan Shazier’s injury in 2017. Last year, he logged almost 200 more snaps than Jon Bostic despite missing two games. This year, he has more talent around him than any time since 2016, but both of the other potential starters are new faces, who both play the mack, and may split time.
Devin Bush is going to be an every-down player. At some point. That’s not necessarily going to be at the start of his rookie season. And the Steelers didn’t sign Mark Barron to sit on the bench. That’s the reason that the team has had all three of them rotating in and out of the starting defense.
But with the fact that both Bush and Barron play the mack position, and Williams the most qualified to line up as the buck, the former two are more likely to eat into each other’s snaps in most situations than it would be for the third to come in over Williams.
Most likely, there will be different packages depending on the situation in which all three different potential combinations (Williams-Bush, Williams-Barron, Barron-Bush) are on the field at some point. But Williams is the guy who has been here and knows the defense. And let’s not forget his blitzing ability, which will keep him on the field on passing downs more than you might think.
Based on his current trajectory, there’s no reason to believe Bush isn’t going to be a full-time starter by the time the regular season rolls around. Arguably the most challenging part of his rookie offseason is learning to call the defense, and he has already drawn praise for that more than any rookie has done on this team in some time, even more than Shazier.
Bush is going to play more snaps than any other inside linebacker on the team, and that’s going to be because he plays too well to justify taking him off. It doesn’t matter what they might mean for the playing time of Barron or Williams. Personnel decisions are made with the objective of helping to win downs in order to win games. Not to make somebody feel good because they’re on the field. And they know what kind of talent Bush is—they gave up a pair of premium draft picks for him.