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: The Steelers will carry seven defensive linemen on the 53-man roster this year.
Explanation: Exiting the 2020 NFL Draft, the Steelers currently have seven defensive linemen who could be considered as having a strong chance of making the roster—if they are willing to keep seven. Certain rules changes may make that a more welcoming prospect.
I think the biggest thing in terms of personnel that makes it likely the Steelers decide to carry an extra defensive lineman this year is the fact that this is probably Tyson Alualu’s last season. While he’ll need a new contract, Chris Wormley is viewed as his successor. And they don’t want to give up on Isaiah Buggs, who has the highest pass-rushing upside of the reserves, which they otherwise lack.
Another personnel piece that plays into the possibility is the fact that Antoine Brooks may occupy two roster spots, essentially, as both a safety and an inside linebacker. Add in the probability of only eight offensive linemen and five wide receivers, and they quite frankly have extra room.
Finally, teams are allowed to dress an extra player on gameday this year. I think a sixth lineman stands a good chance of being that extra player to dress (other than the eighth offensive lineman). Which would also make it more likely that they want seven on the roster.
Then again, other changes may actually decrease the likelihood of this happening. Practice squads have been expanded, and players have been given a bit more protections as well. They can promote players from the practice squad a game at a time, with two-time protections to move them back down without going through waivers. And everybody is now eligible for the practice squad.
Either Buggs or Davis could easily miss the roster and wind up on the practice squad. All it would take is either Alualu or Wormley showing nose flexibility, or a veteran nose tackle, in which case both could be waived. Extra roster spots tend to go to the guys who can play special teams, so look out for an extra linebacker or defensive back instead.