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: Offensive line play will be the greatest performance casualty of the offseason.
Explanation: While every aspect of the game of football is going to suffer or be diminished in some form or fashion by the complete absence of any team on-field work up to this point in time, the offensive line more than any other position group requires working in unison. Typically, offensive linemen play deeper into preseason games than all other starting positions in part to generate that chemistry, even among veteran units.
Offensive line play is often a shaky prospect in the NFL as it is. Now you’re going to be asking these groups to practically come in cold and expect that to have some kind of harmony within their lineup. There will be minimal padded work, and no preseason. When the regular season starts, there will have been virtually no true-game simulation of what the line will be asked to do.
It’s going to show, dramatically, without a doubt, and I’m not talking about just the Steelers. Offensive line play, especially at the beginning of the year, is going to be set back significantly, and with quarterbacks likely having slower processing speeds and thus time-to-throw figures, they’ll have to be blocking longer on top of everything else.
While there is a major cohesion component to offensive line play, the main function in this regard comes before the snap in identifying the defense and setting the protection. Maybe we will see poor play show up in post-snap actions that are harder to simulate like stunts, but other areas of the game will be hit harder.
Like the quarterback position. There’s so much involved in playing quarterback, far beyond just having a strong arm. As mentioned above, we’re going to see slower processing speeds, and quarterbacks will compensate for this by taking more risks—and creating more unforced errors.
Another position that will be hard-hit, for a different reason, is the running backs. They will have had a minimum of physicality throughout the offseason, even in training camp. This will have a cumulative effect on their endurance and durability from the first quarter to the fourth and from the beginning of the season to the end.