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: Rookie defensive tackle Carlos Davis will make the Steelers’ 53-man roster.
Explanation: Yes, I know it’s really early to try to tackle this topic and it’s impossible to answer coherently before we even see him on an NFL practice field. But let’s face it, there isn’t a lot else to talk about right now, and this may be one of the few roster battles this year.
Davis has two things going for him: he’s a great athlete with high physical potential relative to his position; and he plays a position that is currently scarce on the Steelers’ roster. That is, after all, why they drafted him, which immediately opens a door. As long as he’s competent, he walks right in.
With the departure of Javon Hargrave, the only other ‘nose tackle’ on the roster was Daniel McCullers. Davis can play on the nose, and he can play in sub-packages. And unlike Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, or Isaiah Buggs, he wouldn’t have to adjust to it.
Buggs is likely the odd man out as the fifth defensive end, behind Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Alualu, and Wormley. He can easily be kept on the practice squad, and with the new rule flexibility, he doesn’t even have to be promoted to the 53-man roster if he needs to be called up due to injury.
Davis is a rookie seventh-round pick in a pandemic-shortened offseason. No matter who else is on the roster, the deck is stacked against him. He’s not going to be any more prepared to play nose tackle than is Alualu or Buggs, or even Wormley.
The Steelers have mentioned Alualu multiple times in the conversation at nose tackle. It’s a possibility that they even consider moving him there full-time (in addition to nickel work, of course), with Wormley serving as the top reserve end, and Buggs the inactive player on Sundays, with McCullers the primary defensive tackle. It’s a limited enough role that it could work, and is preferable to relying on a rookie without a lot of college production.