Buy Or Sell: Steelers Will Break Out ‘Big Nickel’ To Mitigate Absences Due To Injury

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 will break out the ‘big nickel’ in response to their injuries at linebacker and cornerback.

Explanation: Basically, the big nickel defense takes an inside linebacker off the field instead of a defensive lineman when an extra defensive back is on the field. Considering they are down four inside linebackers and one of their starting cornerbacks, it would make a lot of sense to try this out.


This is basically making a decision between having guys like Tyson Alualu on the field versus Tegray Scales, Justin Layne, and Marcus Allen, and the answer is pretty obvious. You want the extra lineman in a game like this when your depth is very thin at inside linebacker.

And the depth has never been thinner. They have to choose between playing either a former safety who hasn’t actually played ant true linebacker snaps or putting a guy straight from the practice squad with zero NFL experience into a game.

While Layne and Allen have played earlier in the season, it hasn’t been under ideal circumstances, and they haven’t necessarily consistently delivered above-the-line play. And we’re not talking about putting the big nickel on the field in every situation. It’s just something to mix in along with other packages to supplement, depending upon the situation.


It’s not really a package that they have used this year. While they are dealing with unique circumstances here, the reality is that they have already extensively run out of the dime, and against a team that likes to throw the ball, that is what we should expect to see. It’s what they did all the way back in 2013 as well when they lost Larry Foote in the opener and had no experienced replacement.

We saw a game earlier this year in which Antoine Brooks played over 20 snaps. If the Steelers want to get some more meat in there, they can even use Jordan Dangerfield against situations that might call for defending the run. Possibly even using him instead of Cameron Sutton against 23 personnel in their 3-4 front, as they have done in the past.

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