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 won’t be much of a need if the Steelers can sign Bud Dupree to a long-term deal.
Explanation: The Steelers have stated that they would like to make Bud Dupree a Steeler for life. It also pretty much goes without saying that they would plan to do the same for T.J. Watt, who is already a first-team All-Pro by his third season. Having two quality starters is a good place to start, and the team has carried as few as three on their roster, but often like to have five.
The Steelers are not going to go into the draft with a hole at outside linebacker. Even with the likely safe assumption that they will release Anthony Chickillo, it’s likely that they would add another player as a veteran who could compete for that number three role. That could even be Chickillo himself, brought back at a more modest deal. The Baltimore Ravens have done this several times with players over the years. Even the Steelers have done this, for example, with Max Starks.
If you have Dupree, Watt, and X Number Three Guy, plus two young players with potential upside in Ola Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper, it’s hard to call that much of a need. Now, that doesn’t mean that you pass up a good prospect who falls into your lap, but it does mean that if the draft board doesn’t break a certain way, you don’t have to go out of your way to add to this position.
The Steelers always try to fill holes before the draft, like they did last year with Mark Barron and Donte Moncrief and Steven Nelson, but they don’t have that kind of cap space this year. Frankly, any outside linebacker who could compete for the number three job would cost more than they could afford if they re-signed Dupree, and that’s again, probably safely assuming Chickillo is released.
The team has stated in the past that they would prefer to have a rotation, or at least the option of a rotation, at the outside linebacker position. You don’t want to put all your eggs in the baskets of your starters.