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 the Steelers’ biggest need heading into the draft.
Explanation: While it’s true that the Steelers were able to retain Bud Dupree on a franchise tag, the outside linebacker position is sorely lacking in depth after the release of Anthony Chickillo, with only a pair of young and inexperienced former college free agents behind the starters. And Dupree, of course, is only under contract (assuming he signs the tag) for 2020.
T.J Watt is the Steelers’ only sure thing at arguably the most important defensive position in the game beyond the 2020 season. Who would have thought that Pittsburgh would field a stronger and deeper secondary than pass rush? But that is where we currently are.
It’s great to have an All-Pro edge rusher. The thing is, you need two really good ones, even with a strong defensive interior. Even accepting the premise that Dupree is good enough to get the job done with the rest of the talent on the defense, the fact remains that that is only for 2020, unless he signs a long-term deal, which I’m not anticipating.
Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper are complete afterthoughts right now. The Steelers can’t afford to head into the draft even thinking about them. They are mere bodies. Neither of them can currently be projected to be a meaningful defensive contributor, let alone potentially a starter as early as 2021. Given the immense weight of the role, there is no bigger need than this.
Considering the fact that there is still a vacancy along the offensive line at left guard (yes, there are options, but neither are ideal), I could quickly make the argument that an interior offensive lineman is the biggest priority. There is still a hole at nose tackle with Javon Hargrave having left as well.
Even with a trio of young wide receivers with potential, this is still a major area of need. Plus, both JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner will be free agents after this season. James Washington is never going to be a star. Diontae Johnson could be excellent, and he’s under contract for three more years, but in a passing league, that’s just not enough.