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: Ulysees Gilbert III will get edge reps thanks to short lines at OLB.
Explanation: The Steelers waived J.T. Jones while Sutton Smith was just getting back to practice, but he will not play tonight. Olasunkanmi Adeniyi just had surgery. Outside of starters T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, who may not play long, the only other players at outside linebacker are Tuzar Skipper and of course Anthony Chickillo.
Given that they did just this with Matthew Thomas, a somewhat similar player, during the preseason a year ago, I would say there’s a good chance that we will see the Steelers treat Gilbert similarly, and not just because the lines at outside linebacker are low right now, but also because it helps his cause for a roster spot.
When Thomas was on the 53-man roster last year, he was technically the number four outside linebacker behind Watt, Dupree, and Chickillo, while Adeniyi was on the Reserve/Injured List. Of course, he was waived when Adeniyi was activated.
Even if it’s limited to a handful of pass-rushing snaps in obvious passing situations, there’s a very reasonable chance that we could see Gilbert coming off the edge a reasonable amount tonight.
Chickillo is a veteran, granted, but he always gets a lot of work in the preseason. And this is a golden opportunity for Skipper to log a lot of reps. The earlier he gets in the game, and the longer he stays in, the better. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t complain about the workload.
As for Gilbert, he still has to worry about performing at inside linebacker, but even before that, his priority must be on special teams if he means to make the roster. Any work that he might get off the edge will only come through the standard channels of his natural position, which does include coming off the edge on occasion.