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 start a game for the Steelers in 2020.
Explanation: The Steelers have had at least one prominent rookie enter the starting lineup at some point during their rookie season in each year for over a decade running now. Without a first-round pick and with an offseason that will be curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, rookies will have a harder time than usual contributing.
No first-round pick. Stout veterans or rising young players throughout the starting lineup on both sides of the ball. Almost surely no Spring drills, and perhaps a truncated or even cancelled training camp. The 2020 rookie class is going to be done a great disservice because of the pandemic, but that cannot be helped.
Regardless of that, it will have a real-world effect on this season, and that effect for the Steelers will manifest itself in the rookie class being virtual non-entities on offense and defense. Already at least three deep at wide receiver, with an abundant backfield, a full complement on the offensive line, two tight ends, and a defense stacked throughout the starting lineup, there is simply no room for a rookie without a proper offseason to make enough headway to start, barring injury. Talent doesn’t grant you a job, either. Just ask Cameron Heyward.
Devin Bush. Terrell Edmunds. T.J. Watt. Sean Davis. Bud Dupree. Ryan Shazier. Le’Veon Bell. David DeCastro. Marcus Gilbert. Maurkice Pouncey. Mike Wallace. That is at least one player from each of the past 11 drafts who entered the starting lineup on a full-time basis during their rookie year. In many cases, multiple players emerged as starters.
While it will obviously be more difficult for a rookie to start this season, things have a way of working themselves out. There are good odds that the team’s first draft pick will be a wide receiver, given the great depth, and they only have one selection in the top 100, so they will want to take advantage of it.
The team’s wide receiver group isn’t so deep and talented that we can’t see a rookie emerge as the number three. A rookie should work his way in over James Washington, would be my guess. A running back drafted high would also have a chance of starting, even if primarily due to injury. A nose tackle would also have a great chance of starting, even if drafted later on.