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: Rookie practice squad safety Antoine Brooks will finish the season on the 53-man roster.
Explanation: For the past three weeks, Brooks has been on the active roster with caveats. In the first two weeks, he was a practice squad standard elevation player. In the last game, he was a Covid-19 replacement player, a practice squad player who replaces a player moved to the Covid-19 List for a game and then reverts back to the practice squad after the game without having to clear waivers. But given how much he played last week, it appears that they view him as a contributor—more than some people who are on the 53-man roster now.
Would it really be unreasonable for the Steelers to have five defensive backs on the 53-man roster (plus Marcus Allen), considering how much time they spend with six, or recently even seven defensive backs on the field?
Here’s a list of names of players currently on the 53-man roster who could easily be waived and moved to the practice squad (or back to the practice squad): OL Derwin Gray; DL Henry Mondeaux; RB Trey Edmunds; OLB Jayrone Elliott. All of these players started the year on the practice squad. Arguably, based on the last game, Brooks is contributing more than any of them.
While it’s notable that these players are on the 53-man roster while having previously been on the practice squad, it’s also important to note that the current 53-man roster does not included tight end Vance McDonald, lineman Kevin Dotson, and defensive lineman Chris Wormley, all three of whom are guaranteed to replace some of those players.
Gray has been on the roster since week two when he took Zach Banner’s roster spot following a season-ending injury. Mondeaux was called up to play on special teams, and even dressed over Isaiah Buggs, whom the team has given no indication it would consider waiving.
It’s true that Brooks had a defensive role this past week, but that role will be fading away with the return of Mike Hilton. They also have Justin Layne and Sean Davis to take up snaps if it were really necessary.