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: Daniel McCullers will be the Steelers’ primary nose tackle in 2020.
Explanation: After the Steelers lost Javon Hargrave in free agency, which was predicted, they find themselves left with only one true defensive tackle on the roster, that being seventh-year veteran Daniel McCullers. While they could move somebody inside from the current roster, it’s likely they will attempt to address the position in the draft.
If the Steelers were going to add a defensive tackle in free agency whom they felt would be their primary, they would have signed one by now. The market has largely come and gone, and they passed on a number of rather affordable options.
It’s likely that their plan is simply to play in more sub-packages than they have in the past, which is already a lot. Even if they have to rely on McCullers to be their primary nose tackle, they could get away with him only seeing something like 200 or so snaps during the year, which isn’t too much to ask.
It is worth noting that he has played better over the past two years under Karl Dunbar, who seems to have been able to get more out of him than John Mitchell. The nickel defense will be their base, and we will see more dime as well, which will make the 3-4 front even more specialized against the run, something McCullers could handle, with the lack of other options. And any rookie brought in would have a truncated offseason.
Any rookie brought in, or at least a rookie who is a relatively high draft pick, is also likely to have more talent than McCullers. After all, Hargrave was drafted after Steve McLendon left in free agency, and he came in and started over McCullers right away, despite being the veteran at the time, who was said to be hungry for more playing time.
It doesn’t matter how hungry you are if you don’t have the talent. The Steelers haven’t addressed the position in free agency because they know that the draft class is strong for defensive tackles, and they know this is a role that it wouldn’t be too much to ask a rookie to handle. Expect a mid-round pick here who will get the most snaps.