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 have an undrafted free agent rookie make the 53-man roster this season.
Explanation: Considering the fact that the Steelers’ depth was hit in many places through free agency and releases, and they only had six draft picks, one might think that this is a decent year for undrafted free agents to make the team. That is, if they ever get the opportunity to get on the field.
As always as it concerns undrafted free agents, it comes down to who the players are and whether or not there is room at their position. The Steelers have had a few undrafted free agents make a dent in the past couple of years—Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Matthew Thomas, Tuzar Skipper, Devlin Hodges, and Fred Johnson—so they have been having more success recently.
One name that a lot of people have been enticed by is Miami cornerback Trajan Bandy, who despite his 5’9” frame is a physical player. The Steelers have five cornerbacks right now who are probably pretty much locks, but keeping six is common, especially if they only go with four safeties.
John Houston and Leo Lewis are a pair of interesting linebackers, an area of the team the Steelers did not address this offseason outside of undrafted free agency. They could at least compete with Robert Spillane, or make the roster as a fifth guy.
Despite last year seemingly being an aberration, the Steelers have trended toward a preference for carrying five safeties and five cornerbacks, as opposed to four and six—and it’s rare that they carry 11 defensive backs. It’s rare to keep nine total linebackers, too, and outside linebacker has the inside track to have five right now. Most of the other undrafted rookies are on the offensive and defensive lines, both areas now having been pretty well insulated.
But all rookies are going to struggle, not just to impress, but to even have the opportunity to do so. All longshots are going to have a much more difficult time making rosters this year than they would be in any other season, so it doesn’t make much sense to bet on any of them. None of them were really top-name priority free agents, either, guys about whom you say, ‘I can’t believe they weren’t drafted’. And they already have Mike Hilton, as far as Bandy goes.