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: No rookie will have much of an impact on the Steelers’ success or failure in 2020.
Explanation: Not only are the Steelers a strong unit without any holes in their starting lineup on either side of the ball, we are also bracing for a truncated offseason that will make it difficult for rookies to contribute as they may otherwise in an ordinary year. That said, talent still finds a way on the field.
There isn’t a significant position on the team in which a draft pick would even be among the top two players at their position. Even in the presumed best-case scenario of the Steelers drafting a wide receiver, for example, in a very deep class, a rookie is still not going to be playing ahead of JuJu Smith-Schuster or Diontae Johnson, or perhaps even James Washington at the outset. There simply won’t be enough time for him to make that kind of headway to get on the field.
And then there is the fact that there is a pretty good chance the Steelers’ top pick(s) may actually address areas that are not of immediate need. For example, if they decide to take one of the top interior offensive linemen, there’s a good chance this player doesn’t even dress for many games in 2020—or at least it would have, if the eighth-lineman rule weren’t recently put in place.
There are at least two positions where there is a path to significant playing time: defensive tackle and running back. Both of these are positions that are candidates for the top pick, with players like Jonathon Taylor and Neville Gallimore being namedropped in that spot. Either one of them could have an impact on the 2020 season, even with a brief offseason.
And it’s not a foregone conclusion that we won’t be able to have some type of training camp by August. If the preseason is in place—and as of now, the Hall of Fame game remains on—then rookies are only missing the Spring workouts, which can largely be done remotely through instructional videos.