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: Isaiah Buggs will have to play inside to make the 53-man roster.
Explanation: With the Steelers having acquired Chris Wormley to play defensive end and the likelihood of the team continuing to address the position through the draft, Buggs’ best hope for retaining his spot on the roster will be to demonstrate that he is capable of playing defensive tackle.
Working under the assumption that the Steelers will draft a defensive tackle and that this player will make the 53-man roster, it’s already possible to view Buggs as the odd man out. You have the starters in Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, plus Tyson Alualu and now Wormley behind them at end, which is all they need for that position.
Add in Daniel McCullers and a rookie at nose tackle and that’s the six linemen that they typically keep in any given year. It’s very rare that they ever carry fewer or more, and in that rare event, it’s usually extremely temporary or under unusual circumstances.
The Steelers prefer their fifth lineman to be a player who can line up inside and outside, like Chris Hoke and Steve McLendon in the past. When the team drafted him, they talked about Buggs as being this two-way player. Even though he said the team asked him to keep his weight down, Wormley’s addition almost necessarily changes those plans. They don’t need and won’t carry five ends.
Unless they carry seven defensive linemen, which is a possibility this year more than in other years, I believe. It’s likely that they will have as few as nine defensive backs, and possibly only eight linebackers. Eight offensive linemen is likely as well, plus we might only see five wide receivers. The last several spots on the 53-man roster are somewhat weak now, opening up the possibility for different combinations.
Another difference that opens things up for Buggs is the fact that an additional non-offensive lineman will be able to dress for games starting this season. That means they could choose to dress six linemen, making it more valuable to carry seven.
The second-year player does have some talent, so it’s not inconceivable that he could even outright win a roster spot. Wormley is very unlikely to be cut given what they traded for him, but Alualu could be moved if they like Wormley that much. Plus, there is the possibility of either Wormley or Alualu working along the interior instead of Buggs. Kevin Colbert has said that he expects Wormley to work at end, but he doesn’t make those sorts of decisions.