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: The Steelers will still make good use of the tackle-eligible extra lineman during the 2020 season.
Explanation: A year after Zach Banner played over 200 snaps as a sixth lineman—and now a year in which he may be a starter—the Steelers will have one tackle or another who has played the role in the past, but they will also have two tight ends they would want to play more frequently.
While it may not amount to 200 snaps as it did last season, it is reasonable to anticipate that we will still see a decent number of snaps from the Steelers offense this year in which there are six linemen on the field.
That may not come as much as part of an entire series gameplan the way it did at times last season, but you can bet it will show up situationally. Remember, Chukwuma Okorafor took about 70 snaps as a tackle-eligible in 2019, and he will be the eligible if Banner isn’t. Before him, Chris Hubbard and others going back to Mike Adams played that role.
It’s simply a part of their offense and has been a staple since Todd Haley came in, and it was since adopted as a training tool by Mike Munchak and Shaun Sarrett to give young linemen the opportunity to gain playing experience and grow. That still applies no matter who loses the starting job.
In an offense that is at least four deep at wide receiver and two deep at the traditional tight end position, and a full stable of running backs, it’s hard to picture the Steelers logging several dozen snaps with six linemen on the field this year. it’s simply a waste of their resources. We’ll get the goal-line stuff, but that’s about it.
The best value of the two-tight end set is the ability to put defenses off-balance, not knowing if you’re going to run or throw. When Banner is on the field, you know the probability dramatically shifts toward it being a run. So if Vance McDonald and Eric Ebron are recognized as a blocking threat, you can better execute a running play with them on the field rather than a lineman simply because defenses have to respect their receiving ability as well—which is not the case with an Okorafor.