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 record at least two defensive touchdowns this season.
Explanation: Until the offense is up to stuff, the Steelers will require the defense to make plays for them. They have benefited from at least three defensive touchdowns in each of the past three seasons. Though such things can come and go, and are not reliably predictable.
The Steelers still have too many playmakers, even with some key departures, to expect them not to produce splash plays. Minkah Fitzpatrick alone has accounted for three defensive touchdowns over the course of the past two seasons. He figures to be good for one. You also tend to get a somewhat random one here and there, like Robert Spillane’s a year ago.
The coaching staff has increasingly placed a priority on playmaking on defense. Specifically about making plays with the ball in your hands. Given that they have averaged 19 interceptions per season over the course of the past two years, it stands to reason that they will have enough opportunities to get into the end zone a couple of times.
Given the talent drain and coupled with the fluky nature of takeaways, let alone defensive touchdowns, the Steelers are in prime position for a regression in the wrong direction. They have scored three defensive touchdowns in each of the past three seasons, but they didn’t have any in 2017. They only had one the year before that.
The loss of Bud Dupree, and the aging of Cameron Heyward, coupled with the losses of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton, is going to mean quarterbacks are going to get passes out quicker and have more time to throw when they don’t. They will be making fewer mistakes, which means fewer qualities opportunities to create splash plays. And that means defensive touchdowns — particularly in the plural — are unlikely.