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: Newcomer Deon Cain will see a similar workload to Johnny Holton, if not more, on Sunday.
Explanation: Holton has much the same role that Darrius Heyward-Bey had in the offense over the past couple of years, used as a deep threat, decoy, and occasional blocker in run-heavy one-receiver sets. Except he’s played like a poor man’s Heyward-Bey. Cain has a similar skill set, and has five times as many receptions on the year.
By and large, Holton plays on offense when he needs to. His spot on the roster is about special teams. Bringing in somebody who can largely do the same things that he brings to the table is a good sign that his opportunities will be limited.
I’m not sure what kind of interest the Steelers might have had in Cain coming out of college, ultimately drafted in the sixth round by the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, but he’s obviously not somebody that they randomly stumbled upon, signing him off the Colts’ practice squad.
He has size, speed, and height, which is a good start. It doesn’t take a comprehensive knowledge of the offense to spend a handful of snaps per game running down the field. And as he gets more and more into the offense, he’ll play more.
At least for Sunday, however, the turnaround is far too short to expect him to play much of a role. Depending upon the availability of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson, the fact is that Holton could be a starter against the Cincinnati Bengals and will log 50-plus snaps.
That’s not something that they would be asking Cain to do even under the best—or most dire—circumstances. Even if he proves to be a quick study and can get onto the field, he’s not going to have a bigger role than a veteran who has been on the team since March. He’ll get a few snaps at most in limited scenarios.