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: A rookie will be the opening-day starter at center.
Explanation: Whether the Steelers use a first round pick on Landon Dickerson or some other center then or later in the draft, it is a near inevitability that they will be adding at least one center-capable player over the next three days. With no incumbent starters, that leaves open the possibility that the rookie can ascend to the starting lineup by opening day.
When your competition is the guy the Steelers didn’t feel was worth paying $4 million a year for and the guy who previously didn’t make the team in favor of the guy who wasn’t worth $4 million a year, you probably have a pretty good shot of winning.
I don’t know whether or not they will use their first pick on a center, but they probably will draft one by the end of Day 2, and general manager Kevin Colbert said that this is an unusually deep draft for centers, where you can find starters further along than normal.
I like B.J. Finney as much as the next guy, and I don’t think it would be the end of the world if he were to wind up being a bridge starter, but a bridge starter is a fallback option. A player with a trajectory of a starter should be able to reach that point against that level of competition sooner rather than later.
While the Steelers didn’t re-sign B.J. Finney last year, Matt Feiler was one of the reasons that they allowed him to walk. They did bring him back at the first opportunity. They saw him as a starter-in-waiting type before he left, and I don’t think they would hesitate to put him in the starting lineup, at least to start the season, in 2021.
Even if they draft Dickerson or somebody else in the first round, we can’t say with certainty that he is going to be ready to play right off the bat. Center is a more complicated position with more responsibilities, at which point it helps to have some continuity, which they have in Finney or J.C. Hassenauer, whom the Steelers supposedly have a higher opinion of than those on the outside realize.