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: Depth along the offensive line is going to be an issue in 2020.
Explanation: The Steelers are expected to lose at least one or two, and possibly as many as four, offensive linemen this season who were on the 53-man roster a year ago. That is after having already lost two depth players who spent time on the 53-man roster after being claimed off waivers during the 2019 season.
It was considered a given for years that B.J. Finney would be the heir apparent to the left guard position when Ramon Foster retires, yet it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that they lose both of them this offseason.
While Foster is under contract, they will need his cap savings in order to do business, and Finney has proven during his 12 career starts that he is worth a starter’s salary on the open market. While they will likely do whatever is necessary to retain Matt Feiler, which will probably cost a second-round restricted free agent tender worth over $3 million, that will also make it difficult to keep Zach Banner.
If you lost Finney, Foster, and Banner, then you have Feiler moving to left guard and Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle. And your backups are…J.C. Hassenauer along the interior and Derwin Gray outside, with Christian DiLauro in the mix. They’ll add a rookie to this, but that is a line room that is in rough shape.
First thing’s first: if the CBA passes, which is likely will, they will have the ability to restructure contracts enough to be able to retain Feiler easily, likely re-sign Finney as long as it’s not a crazy amount, and keep Banner around as well. Hell, they may even keep Foster.
Even if the CBA is voted down, they will still have a quality starting five regardless of who else they will be able to keep, and a starting five that has been shown by and large to be healthy. The Steelers have a history of developing depth here—most of the players named in this article can speak to that—and they should still be able to keep Banner around on a low-level deal. He’s a guy who clearly wants to stay, and so does Finney for that matter. Nobody is rushing out the door.