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: Outside linebacker is a serious need even presuming that Bud Dupree is re-signed.
Explanation: While owner Art Rooney II has said that he is optimistic Bud Dupree will be under contract in 2020, he could not say if that would only be under a franchise tag. Beyond Dupree and T.J. Watt, the unit also currently has veteran Anthony Chickillo and two young players with almost no meaningful playing experience in Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper.
The offseason is probably going to play out like this: Bud Dupree gets the franchise tag. Part of the money for that tag comes from the Steelers releasing Chickillo, whose high 2020 salary after signing a two-year deal last offseason was always a huge red-flag indicator that he was never intended to see the second year of that deal.
So then you’re looking at the 2020 season with just Adeniyi and Skipper beyond Dupree and Watt, and in 2021, you may not even have Dupree. In the meantime, you have no assurances that either Adeniyi or Skipper will ever amount to anything. So you have no preparation for potentially needing a new starter in 2021, no solid prospects in the pipeline.
For a position of such premium importance as outside linebacker, that absolutely qualities as a serious need. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers use a day-two pick on the position. You need somebody to rotate in anyway.
While Chickillo may well be released, he could also take a pay cut. If we’re really looking at his market, it should be obvious that he’s not going to find somebody to pay him $5 million, whether on a one-year deal or per-year. They could even release him and re-sign him at a lower contract. It’s been done plenty of times before.
By the time free agency, or at least the draft, rolls around, the front office will have tagged Dupree and potentially even worked out a long-term deal. At worst, they’ll have a good feel for the parameters of a workable long-term deal. This is far from a Le’Veon Bell situation.
And aside from that, Adeniyi and Skipper are both interesting prospects. With Dupree and Watt already presumed for 2020, there’s no rush to add to the pool before seeing with they can do this year. Anybody that they add this year anyway isn’t likely to be somebody who would be starter-worthy in 2021.