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 contain Keenan Allen this time around.
Explanation: The Steelers didn’t just lose to the Los Angeles Chargers the last time around because of Keenan Allen and his 14 receptions, many of which he made while working against linebackers in coverage, but his efforts certainly didn’t hurt the cause. This year, the Steelers promise to be better prepared to defend the Pro Bowl wide receiver.
This is an easy buy that really only means that Allen is not going to have a big game. That doesn’t mean that the Chargers aren’t going to win. Los Angeles will has plenty of talent, including at the wide receiver position. They also have Melvin Gordon coming back at running back, plus Austin Akeler, and tight end Hunter Henry may be able to play as well.
It’s quite possible that the Chargers are not even planning on Allen having a big game, knowing that the Steelers will be keying on managing him. Of course, there will be the situations where you go to your best player when you need a play to be made, but he doesn’t have to have 150 yards for Los Angeles to have success.
While not having Steven Nelson will be an issue, the Steelers have enough with the likes of Cameron Sutton and Minkah Fitzpatrick to better cover a versatile inside-outside receiver like Allen, and with Devin Bush, they also have a linebacker who would be better able to cover him anyway.
Having a plan and carrying it out are different beasts, and we know the Steelers, particularly on defense, have laid out plenty of plans that felt short in recent years. Allen hasn’t had much of an impact the past two weeks, but through the first three games, he totaled 29 receptions for 404 yards and three touchdowns, averaging about 10 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown per game in that span.
Now the Chargers are at home, the Steelers are going to be starting Artie Burns, who is susceptible to being confused with double moves, and the defense still has issues in communication and switching off assignments over the middle. This is still set up for Allen to have a big game, as long as he gets his targets, and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t.