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: Antoine Brooks will remain a part of the 53-man roster after Kevin Dotson returns from the Covid-19 list.
Explanation: The rookie sixth-round pick dressed for his third consecutive game on Sunday, but it was his first as a member of the 53-man roster, as a Covid-19 replacement for lineman Kevin Dotson, who was placed on the reserve list. Once he is activated, somebody will have to lose their spot. With Brooks playing, there is a chance someone else will be let go instead.
The Steelers didn’t have to let Brooks play dozens of snaps on Sunday. They could have turned to Sean Davis, their fifth-year veteran former starting safety, if they wanted to. Brooks played because the team believed that he earned the opportunity to play in light of injuries that they are dealing with, and so he did.
The simple fact that they asked him not just to play, but to play extensively tells me that their intention is for him to stay on the 53-man roster. A shortcut would be to let Trey Edmunds go, but another roster spot would still have to be opened up once tight end Vance McDonald is ready to be activated, though there are options.
There aren’t a lot of good options, though. While Brooks did play on defense, that doesn’t mean he’s locked into a role. Once Mike Hilton is back, his playing time will dry up. They can just go back to playing Justin Layne, as they had been in past weeks. It could have been a matchup-specific opportunity.
The thing that is hurting Brooks is that he has dressed for three games but only played on special teams in one of them. If he is not going to play on special teams, then he is expendable, especially with Derek Watt finally back.
Layne isn’t going anywhere because of special teams. Same with James Pierre, Marcus Allen, Jordan Dangerfield, and Davis, for that matter. If he were to stay on the roster, he likely would not even be dressing once Hilton returns, so it makes little sense to retain him, especially since, as a Covid-19 replacement, he won’t have to go through waivers.