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: Thanks to the new rules, Daniel McCullers will wind up on the practice squad in 2020.
Explanation: With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are now allowed to have up to two players of any level of experience and longevity to serve on their practice squad, so players like Daniel McCullers who otherwise would not have been eligible now are. With predictable moves along the defensive line this offseason, McCullers to the practice squad could make sense.
By the time the regular season starts, the Steelers will have a ‘starting’ nose tackle on the roster who will not be McCullers, whether it is a draft pick, a low-budget free agent signing who is brought in at a later date, or possibly even a player who puts on weight to move into the middle.
As it currently stands, the roster construction looks something like this: Cameron Heyward; Stephon Tuitt; Tyson Alualu; Isaiah Buggs; Chris Wormley; Daniel McCullers. They already have six linemen, very rarely keep more than six, and are almost surely to draft one, with the possibility of adding on in free agency as well, for potentially eight linemen in total.
The Steelers have said that their free agency plans are on pause as they work toward the draft, but I believe they will still add a veteran defensive tackle before things are over. And McCullers has a base salary of $1.5 million, so they would also save some cap space if he’s not on the 53.
As much as I might I have a hard time believing they will go into the season with McCullers as their only experience defensive tackle, it’s become apparent over the years that the team does like him more than a lot of fans do, and he has improved somewhat in recent years.
More realistically, Buggs would be the one who is knocked down from the 53-man roster to the practice squad, since his role is more redundant, overlapping with Alualu and Wormley as end depth. McCullers could very well be the team’s primary defensive tackle in 2020, for as little as they might use that role—and they might try not to use it much if that is the case.