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: The Steelers will take the best available skill position player with their first draft pick next month.
Explanation: While the Steelers saw a few holes open up throughout the roster through the free agency process, they have done a good job of plugging in some of the gaps at tight end and along the trenches. They haven’t yet addressed the skill positions of running back or wide receiver, however, and tight end isn’t necessarily out of the question, either.
Arguably the Steelers’ biggest need from a numeric perspective is nose tackle. But you don’t need a nose tackle in the second round, so you can cross that off right away. Safety is another position where you’d like to see depth, but you’re not using your top pick on that spot when you have two first-round picks with three years remaining on their contracts (if you exercise their options) in front of them.
Quarterback? They’re obviously not touching that. They need linebackers, but not starters, and you can find help later on. No offensive lineman they draft is going to start this year without an offseason.
The logical place left to develop is the skill positions. Running back is typically the position that it is easiest for rookies to contribute right away. A wide receiver could come in and contribute without a lot on their plate with the three that they already have behind them. Should they go the tight end route, which is admittedly less likely, again, they would be able to wait on them.
While it’s a distinct possibility that they do go skill player, it’s equally likely, I think, that the pick is along the offensive line or a linebacker. They don’t know if they have five starting linemen right now, for one thing, and Stefen Wisniewski is 31. He’s not a long-term answer, and there are some good interior linemen early on.
At outside linebacker, you have T.J. Watt, your staple, and then you have Bud Dupree, who’s a one-year wonder on a one-year contract. If you have a guy in the second round, you take him. You don’t have anyone else worth mentioning.
Inside linebacker, you just lost Mark Barron, and Vince Williams is getting long in the tooth, and also doesn’t entirely fit what you would ideally like to do. Are you really banking on Ulysees Gilbert III to turn into a defensive player to supplement what you can’t get from your starter? Might as well bring in somebody who has the potential to start in a year or two instead.