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2021 Offseason Questions: Is Playing Slot As Complicated As Steelers Make It Sound?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. It ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?

These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.

Question: Is the slot position really as complicated as everybody on the Steelers is making it sounds?

While it is certainly the case that the slot cornerback position has rightfully become regarded as its own unique role and is often referred to as a starting position, the way the Steelers are making it sound this offseason, one needs to be a ripped brain surgeon in order to be able to play there, at least in their system.

Of course, the topic is of relevance right now because Pittsburgh is searching for a new starter there after having Mike Hilton in that spot for the past four years, where he has shown himself to be one of the more versatile defensive backs in the NFL.

Yet as just a former undrafted free agent with no playing experience, Hilton took over the role. Admittedly, he wasn’t a rookie, as would be the case for, say, Shakur Brown, but is it really so complicated that it would take more than just a player displaying talent this offseason for the coaching staff to trust him there?

A lot of it has to do with what the Steelers in particular ask of the position. Logically, you have to adjust based on who’s there. If it ends up being somebody who’s inexperienced, you adapt. Of course, the smart money is on Cameron Sutton playing there, who has started several games inside in the past and has logged more than 500 starts there.

And, after all, they let a rookie Antoine Brooks Jr. play snaps there in 2020, so there is that.

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