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: Carlos Davis has the highest upside of the Steelers’ young defensive linemen.
Explanation: A rookie seventh-round draft pick, Carlos Davis was viewed by some (including myself) to be a longshot to make the 53-man roster in 2020, in large part due to the nature of the offseason. He did make the team, however, unseating Daniel McCullers, and we got our first-ever professional look at him on Sunday, playing 16 snaps, on which he displayed some talent.
One thing that we knew about Davis coming out of Nebraska is that he is an athlete, running a 4.82-second 40-yard dash time at 313 pounds at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. He wasn’t necessarily a high-productivity player in college, and was knocked for having short arms, but the proper motivation, coaching, and simple talent can overcome such things.
Davis has at least two of those three, and for the moment, I have no reason to question his motivation. And he looked encouraging in his first action against the Cowboys on Sunday. It’s also important to remember that these were his first snaps, because he never even had a preseason.
Isaiah Buggs is an interesting player who had good hand usage, but I don’t know that he has the same upside as Davis, and we may even see the two of them square off for a helmet before the season is over. Henry Mondeaux has made some plays, including in the preseason, but he seems to be pretty much who is he ever going to be already.
This was a small sample size against a mediocre offensive line, including a backup center after their starter injured his back or something just before the game started. He doesn’t have the fundamental work that Buggs has, who one can easily argue is being overlooked.
And since none of them have a lot of professional playing time, we can look back to college, where Buggs was more productive than Davis was, posting 9.5 sacks in his final collegiate season with 13.5 tackles for loss. Davis had the same number of sacks over four years, and 16 tackles for loss. Physical assets don’t always translate to being a successful football player.
And Mondeaux? You never count out guys like Mondeaux who simply love the game and work hard at it. He’s athletic enough to be the only defensive interior player in the NFL running down kickoffs, reminiscent of a certain bearded alumnus by the name of Brettt Keisel. He has three NFL games under his belt. He’s far from done growing.