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 elevate Derwin Gray for Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos.
Explanation: Unless there is a surprise development, it looks as though the Steelers will only have seven healthy offensive linemen on the 53-man roster to dress, which means that if they want to make use of the opportunity to dress an eighth lineman, they will have to elevate one of the three that they have on the practice squad, Derwin Gray being the most notable.
Even though he botched it this week, Mike Tomlin said going into Monday’s game that he has every intention of making use of the extra gameday helmets available to him after the new CBA provided for teams to expand their active roster from 46 to 48, provided that the 48th player is an eighth lineman—otherwise they are permitted to dress 47 players.
The Steelers aren’t going to waive anybody from the 53-man roster just to bring in a temporary street lineman, and with two interior linemen down, Gray is the obvious choice for elevation. He played guard all throughout the offseason a year ago, and the fact that they made him one of their protected players makes their intentions a dead giveaway.
Just because the Steelers have the opportunity to dress eight linemen doesn’t mean that they have to. Gray as an interior-capable lineman has value while two interior linemen are down, but that doesn’t translate automatically to his being given a helmet.
One thing they have to consider is the fact elevating him now would mean burning one of his two permitted elevations. If they would need him a third time, then they would have to release or waive somebody from the 53-man roster to promote him the old-fashioned way. This seems like something they would be more likely to do if they only had six healthy linemen, rather than seven. They still have J.C. Hassenauer, after all, as a reserve.
There’s also the possibility that David DeCastro practices today and plays on Sunday. We have such little information about his injury that it’s impossible for us to say. The only immediate indication that it’s not a more serious injury is that he wasn’t played on IR. And I bet Jerald Hawkins is taking some reps inside in the meantime. Just in case.