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 keep five outside linebackers on the 53-man roster.
Explanation: Though far from uncommon, it’s not a guarantee that the Steelers will carry five outside linebackers, depending upon the needs of other positions and whether or not they are comfortable with a player being preserved on the practice squad.
Outside linebacker is one of the premium positions on a team that runs a 3-4 defense, and there’s never enough depth. While they drafted Alex Highsmith, he is a rookie learning amid a pandemic. It’s not reasonable to expect him to be up to snuff to work behind T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree extensively right from the word go.
Olasunkanmi Adeniyi has had bad luck with injuries during his first two years, but luck has a way of changing. They’ve kept him around for two years even without him really doing anything in the regular season, so that shouldn’t be expected to change.
While they let Tuzar Skipper go, they also brought him back, because they like something about him. And right now, it seems likely the team could be low on certain positions like cornerback, inside linebacker, offensive line, or wide receiver, to the point where it shouldn’t be difficult at all to fit in five edge defenders.
Watt, Dupree, and Highsmith are the only locks to make the roster, the latter only because he’s a rookie. Adeniyi has been here for two years, but he’s done little in that time. It’s not far-fetched to think that Skipper could bypass him and claim a fourth and final spot at the position.
It comes down to special teams as much as anything, and Adeniyi is not exactly an exceptional special teams player, even if he played a good number of snaps. As far as Skipper goes, he has basically one preseason game’s worth of special teams work, and you can’t guarantee repeat success.
Both Adeniyi and Skipper are unaccomplished with respect to their NFL careers. Either one of them could be safe to stash on the practice squad, which no longer has any limits as to who is eligible. Whoever the best special teams linebacker is among the last candidates, including inside linebackers like John Houston, will be awarded a ninth spot.