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: Shortened preseason is a death sentence to all longshot players currently on the roster.
Explanation: With there already being reports that the NFL will trim rosters to 75-80 players, it’s clear that there will be limited opportunities for longshots to get any attention. And without attention, there’s little hope of making a team. But not no hope.
Longshots are called longshots for a reason. What they’re trying to do is difficult, and few who try actually succeed. You only have a small window to work your way up from the bottom all the way up to a cutoff point that results in you having a job.
That small window is being closed halfway or more. Mike Hilton was on the practice squad the year before he made the roster. He drew praise in OTAs. He planted the seeds before he made the team. Kameron Kelly was running with the first-team defense in OTAs because Sean Davis was injured last year.
Every single longshot on this year’s roster is nearly at position zero right now. The coaches haven’t seen them on the field before with their own eyes, ever (depending on whom you consider a longshot—I wouldn’t including Kerrith Whyte or Deon Cain). Their competitors basically got a five-second head start out of the gates, and they have to catch up with half the track already navigated. Nobody is going to succeed.
Cutting the preseason isn’t good. Having no in-person Spring workouts isn’t good. But the bulk of the evaluation work comes during training camp. And for all we know, there will be things about how this training camp is conducted that makes it easier to get a clear evaluation on individual players.
There aren’t a lot of spots on the team that are probably open to a challenger, but you have to give somebody like Trajan Bandy at cornerback our John Houston at inside linebacker or John Battle, a safety who signed a futures contract in January, at least a chance to make an impression