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 go the rest of the season with only five defensive linemen on the roster.
Explanation: While the Steelers have had a total of seven different defensive linemen on the 53-man roster so far this year, two of them are now on the Reserve/Injured List. The latter was signed to replace the former, but when the second lineman brought in to replace the first was injured, the team signed a player from another position to fill his roster spot.
There is one simple reason that the Steelers chose to sign outside linebacker Tuzar Skipper off the New York Giants’ practice squad, rather than a defensive lineman, when they placed L.T. Walton on the Reserve/Injured List. They ran out of defensive linemen good enough to consider for the 53-man roster.
Walton filled the roster spot of Stephon Tuitt, who was lost for the season six games into the year. He looked to be having a career year; his roster replacement had been a healthy scratch.
Given that the sixth defensive lineman is a weekly inactive anyway, and always has been, there is no pressing need for him to be on the 53-man roster, especially when you keep losing viable options. Even Lavon Hooks, who had been on the practice squad the past two years, suffered a season-ending injury in the summer. He would probably be on the roster by now. But at this point that just don’t have anybody worth signing.
Whether or not they have anybody worth signing, injuries won’t care about that. If any single one of their five defensive linemen on the 53-man roster sustain any type of injury that causes them to miss even a single game, they will have to sign somebody. Playing just four defensive linemen in a game is a recipe for fatigue.
And it’s not entirely true that there is nobody that they like. They have Henry Mondeaux, who had a strong preseason, on the practice squad. They’ve called up and played guys like Johnny Maxey before, so this would be no different.
Even if there isn’t an injury at the position, Mondeaux could still be called up. They still have an extra running back on the roster who could be released once James Conner gets healthy. Skipper isn’t necessarily assured a roster spot for the rest of the year, either.