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: One of the young Toledo outside linebackers (Ola Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper) will step up and contribute successfully this season.
Explanation: The Steelers were obviously not sold with their depth at outside linebacker following the release of Anthony Chickillo, which prompted them to use their second draft pick on Alex Highsmith. Adeniyi and Skipper are the only other reserves at the position who have been with the team before.
Both Adeniyi and Skipper have shown in the preseason that they have what the Steelers are looking for from the outside linebacker position—the ability to bend the corner getting after the passer, to hold the edge against the run, and to make plays.
Adeniyi had three sacks and two forced fumbles during his rookie preseason. Skipper had five sacks and two forced fumbles during his rookie preseason. Both of them played strong run defense on top of that. Both of them made the 53-man roster even though they were undrafted rookies, which had become increasingly rare for Pittsburgh.
Now that Chickillo is no longer an obstacle, each of them will have the opportunity—competing with one another—to absorb those number three outside linebacker snaps, and history suggests they’re not going to get 16 starts out of both of their starters.
While it’s possible that at least one of them plays well enough to be the number three outside linebacker over a rookie in Highsmith who might not be ready to contribute defensively, that doesn’t mean that they will actually have success doing it.
The truth is that neither of them have looked great when they have played in the regular season (with Skipper’s coming with the New York Giants after they claimed him off waivers). Plenty of players have had great preseasons and then done nothing in the regular season, against a higher level of competition and a team that is actually gameplanning against you. You’re not just out there whooping a third-string right tackle who will be lucky to make the practice squad.