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: An abbreviated preseason will not be enough time for the coaching staff to get comfortable in anybody but Matt Feiler starting at right tackle.
Explanation: Two preseason games, if they manage to get even that in, will give Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner each one game to start at right tackle. There will be a maximum of about 150 snaps combined if they’re lucky. But if they have actually improved, it shouldn’t take long to see.
On the one hand, you could have a starting lineup in which two of your starters on the offensive line have a maximum of two starts at the position he’s lining up at each week. That would be a lineup with Feiler at guard and Okorafor or Banner at tackle.
On the other hand, you could have a lineup with all linemen having extensive starting experience. Feiler has 25 starts at right tackle, and Stefen Winiewski has plenty of starts at both guard and center. With a limited offseason, the latter option is far more tempting.
Mike Tomlin has already acknowledged that he is favoring veteran experience in the early goings, even though he has said that means Feiler at guard. In the long run, that will mean Feiler at tackle, rather than relying upon a pair of novices who have about 150 or so combined snaps at tackle in their NFL careers.
The Steelers already trust Okorafor to be able to start, because he has started two games before. Tomlin has also been clear in his belief in Banner’s potential. He sees Banner as somebody who could be a franchise tackle, if not for Pittsburgh, for some team in the league.
Another important thing to consider is the fact that all coaches around the league are going to be aware there will be a learning curve to this season. Every team is dealing with the same set of circumstances thanks to the coronavirus. They will have to be forgiving for players who might have to play their way into a role, if they feel it will present them with the best option in the long run.