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: Outside linebacker is the Steelers’ top priority next offseason.
Explanation: While it’s still possible that Bud Dupree could be in Pittsburgh next year, their failure to get him signed long-term in time was a big blow toward that end. Behind T.J. Watt, the team has only a part of inexperienced former undrafted free agents and a rookie late-third-round pick who hasn’t had an offseason.
How could it not be? First of all, edge rusher is always a priority. People who throw the ball, people who catch the ball, the blindside protector, people who chase after the guys who throw the ball, and people who cover the guys who catch the ball. That is what the game primarily boils down to now. If you don’t have these pieces in place, you’re going to be a middling team at best.
Amazingly enough, the Steelers actually have all of these pieces. But while T.J. Watt is great, you need edge rushers on both sides, and the team doesn’t have anybody who can offer what Dupree can. Ola Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper have each had one good preseason and then nothing else. They have no resume, no case.
Then there’s Alex Highsmith. He did some nice things in college, enough to sneak into the back of the third round. He did it at a lower level of competition, however. He’s not going to play this year. They won’t know any more about him by March than they know now, so he can’t be a factor.
There are two ways to approach this. You can either minimize the importance of the state of the edge rusher position, or you can argue that there are even bigger concerns, despite this one being bigger. While there is a case to be made that the concern here is overstated, I’m taking the latter approach.
Like, I don’t know, maybe getting a quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger will be going into the last year of his contract in 2021 and possibly retiring after that, assuming he makes it that far. You could have Lawrence Taylor and Kevin Greene as your outside linebackers and nobody will care if your quarterback is…anybody currently on the roster aside from Roethlisberger.
Then there’s the offensive line. Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, and Zach Banner will all be free agents. They’ll be lucky to retain two.