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 have enough defensive line depth to play at a high level without Stephon Tuitt.
Explanation: Stephon Tuitt has been the Steelers’ best defensive lineman so far in 2020, and yet his best ability has been his availability. Now having been placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List, it is very likely they will be without him on Tuesday, and possibly longer. Chris Wormley, Henry Mondeaux, and Carlos Davis are the available depth behind Cameron Heyward and Tyson Alualu.
It starts with two facts: Cameron Heyward and Tyson Alualu are both really good and playing really well this year; and the Steelers spend most of their time with only two defensive linemen on the field, anyway. Alualu is an obvious downgrade from Tuitt in terms of the pass rush, but arguably may be even an upgrade in run defense.
The Steelers have insanely good numbers against the run when he’s on the field, especially compared to when he’s not, so his increased snap count we’re likely to see may be a net good, believe it or not, since they have so many other viable pass-rush options.
But they will need rest, so the others will need to step in. This is when Chris Wormley finally comes in handy. He has been a 3-4 starter before. He knows what to do. He’s just been behind quality starters. He’s healthy now and can do the job. Henry Mondeaux and Carlos Davis won’t be needed for much more than mop-up duty.
Although the Washington Football Team is not the league’s most daunting challenge, they’re not pushovers, and in fact they have the fifth-most rushing touchdowns. Antonio Gibson has been having a great season with 645 rushing yards and 11 scores, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and averaging 12.6 attempts.
The Steelers will struggle to contain the run, which is going to mean long drives, which is going to mean more rotation, which is going to mean more snaps when they only have guys like Mondeaux and Wormley and Davis out on the field by themselves. That’s when the depth’s going to collapse. They’re not going to lose, but the defensive line will not play at a high level in Tuitt’s absence, collectively. It’s not like Javon Hargrave is going to hop over and help out.