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 should rest as many starters as possible in the finale with difference between second and third seeds being negligible.
Explanation: Following yesterday’s results, it is impossible for the Steelers to finish the regular season as anything but the second or third seeds in the AFC playoffs. They are locked into the third seed, but if the Buffalo Bills lose at least one of their last two games—or generally, if the Steelers lose one fewer game than the Bills do the rest of the year—they will earn the second seed. The second seed, however, no longer comes with a bye week attached, and this is a team that hasn’t had proper rest all year.
I don’t know about as many starters as possible, but there are definitely players like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who have no business playing in the finale. The difference between the second and third seed is not worth the risk of his getting hurt when they already have no worse than the third seed secured and they need help just to get the second seed in the first place.
Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Cameron Heyward are other veterans who could stand to get a rest. I might even considering at least limiting T.J. Watt’s workload, maybe even rotating out Minkah Fitzpatrick. Their importance is for the postseason, and they need to be healthy. They’ve already lost starters due to injury.
And, again, they’ve never had proper time off. Their ‘bye’ week was thrust upon them deep into a work week. Their ‘mini-bye’ they were supposed to have after a Thursday game instead turned into a short week after said game was delayed six days. They’re not getting a postseason bye, so players need to get rest now.
There is a difference between playing as the second seed and playing as the third seed—you face a lesser-ranked team. If the second seed, they would host the seventh seed rather than the sixth, and if both the second and third seeds advance, you host that game. Even without fans, being at home is better than traveling and playing in a foreign stadium.
The other factor is the fact that this is a team that is not playing well right now. They still need to work on some things before getting into the postseason. Ben Roethlisberger talked about the final stretch of the season being a prelude to the playoffs, a time for them to get right and work on things in preparation. Nobody who has watched them recently can convince themselves that they are ready for single elimination.