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 offensive lineman that is not currently on the 80-man roster will start for the Steelers in 2021.
Explanation: This is a bit of a far-off statement, but also an important one, with the Steelers facing three linemen—potentially all three of them starters this year—hitting free agency this year. They have some young players in the mix as depth, but none as proven starters, as yet.
Alejandro Villanueva is as good as gone. So is Matt Feiler. With the cap crunch, the need to retain Cameron Heyward, and the fact that JuJu Smith-Schuster will be prioritized over a starting offensive lineman, it’s very difficult to foresee. The only way that Zach Banner is retained is if he fails to earn a starting job and still has something to prove. Just look at Chris Hubbard after something like six starts a few years ago and the contract he got. Someone will pay a big 6’8” right tackle.
There’s a good chance all three of these players are gone. There’s no telling whether a player like Kevin Dotson will actually develop into a starter. With the blows to the depth, the team will have to address the line next year in a significant way, whether that’s through free agency or high draft picks, and simply by the nature of their pedigree, it’s reasonable to assume that at least one new face will take over a starting job for a group that may have up to three vacancies.
Even if the Steelers end up losing both Villanueva and Feiler, they should at least be able to retain Banner, and that’s assuming he even wins the starting job. And we can’t forget about Wisniewski, who could even be starting this year.
A starting lineup for opening day in 2021 could look like this, from left to right: Chukwuma Okorafor – Kevin Dotson/Stefen Wisniewski – Maurkice Pouncey – David DeCastro – Zach Banner. Among this group, Banner is the only player who is not under contract next year, but even if he ends up starting, it will be with one year of starting experience, and he probably is not in a rush to leave, because he seems to genuinely love being on this team.