The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.
The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.
How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Is Stephon Tuitt’s return a bigger net gain than is the loss of Javon Hargrave?
For about two thirds of the 2019 season, the Steelers played with a defensive line consisting primarily of Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, and Tyson Alualu. There are still a lot of things to shake out as far as nose tackle goes, but this year, their top two are clearly Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, with Alualu a potential candidate to be the nose tackle.
Hargrave is a great defensive tackle and was rightly paid by the Eagles this offseason. But Tuitt when he’s healthy is legitimately about as good as is Heyward, a first-team All-Pro talent, and that’s certainly not to be taken lightly.
Going from Tuitt to Alualu, no offense to the long-time veteran, is a huge downgrade, at least in the pass rush. But whoever serves as the nose tackle in Hargrave’s place is going to be a big downgrade in that department as well. And Hargrave also played a lot of snaps in the nickel, too.
It would have been nice if the Steelers could have paid all three, but we’ve known for a while now that it just wasn’t realistic, especially since they spend most of their time playing with only two defensive linemen on the field anyway.
The reality is that they spent most of last season with only two of them, anyway. They will do so again this year, under different circumstances. Will it work out even better with Tuitt rather than Hargrave?