The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.
As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion
Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How many different offensive linemen will start for the Steelers this year?
Through two games, the Steelers have already had seven different offensive linemen start a game, and an eighth is inevitable whenever David DeCastro returns to action. Teams go entire seasons without starting that many, let alone just a few games.
Even with the team virtually guaranteed to start at least eight offensive linemen, however, it may still prove to be good fortune if they can hold it to that number. For example, their swing tackle to start the season is already in the starting lineup.
Alejandro Villanueva has never missed a game in his career, but that can always change. Chukwuma Okorafor is a new starter. Can we really expect that they’ll be good for a combined 28 more games? If one of them goes down, how do the Steelers shift the line? Does Matt Feiler kick outside, and if so, if DeCastro and Wisniewski are not back yet, who plays at left guard? Do they trust Jerald Hawkins to start a game?
Wisniewski may miss several weeks yet. Even taking for granted that Kevin Dotson is capable of starting, he would not start at center in the event of a Maurkice Pouncey injury. If he were to miss a game while Wisniewski is still out, J.C. Hassenauer would have to start that game.
Injuries are never something that you want to think about, but they’re important to plan for so that when they do come up—and they inevitably do—you are in the best position to mitigate them. Dotson and Okorafor so far have stepped up as depth, but the placement of the latter is now permanent.