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: Any player the Steelers select 49th overall has to be somebody who can be a day-one contributor.
It is true that the Steelers have a pretty strong starting lineup, overall. However, that doesn’t mean that they are not without their weakness, or with areas in which young players would be capable of contributing.
Thanks to the fact that they were able to plug some key holes in free agency, they have set themselves up to be able to take an approach something like adding the best player available, though that may be modified to ‘best skill position player available’.
No matter where that pick comes, either at wide receiver, running back, or tight end, they need in some way to be able to make an impact right away, because the offense needs the addition of another playmaker.
At wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster is awaiting a true complement, while Diontae Johnson is more of a possession player and James Washington is too inconsistent to be reliable. At running back, nobody has the stability or explosiveness to be relied upon, while the tight end position…well, is unlikely to be addressed at 49.
Because the team only has one pick in the top 100, that puts a lot of pressure on that player to be one who can have some sort of effect on this season. And for good reason: this is not a team without needs.
When you are at the end of your championship window, you generally want to focus on maximizing your ability to succeed at every turn. But sometimes, doing so is less about finding somebody who can be on the field immediately and more about insulating key positions against injury.
We learned last season how important injuries can be. It derailed the offense entirely, and not just because of Ben Roethlisberger. The team needs a wide receiver who can step in against if Smith-Schuster goes down. It needs a dynamic running back to pick up James Conner. It needs another interior reserve, especially if Stefen Wisniewski is in the starting lineup.
And it also needs linebackers. And safeties. In most of these cases, these players aren’t going to be getting on the field right away. But they could be the difference between filling and creating a void in the event of injuries. The Steelers have a strong starting lineup, but their depth has been drained since last year, and that is dangerous.