The Steelers are already out of training camp and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, informally known as the South Side facility. It’s where they otherwise train all year round, and the shift from Saint Vincent College for training camp back to Pittsburgh signals the approaching arrival of the regular season.
The team had a good few weeks of work up in Latrobe, but there are still unsettled questions that need answering. There are a few position battles yet to be determined, whether one considers the quarterback job up for grabs, or even remotely in the mix.
We’ve got yet another new offensive line with some incoming veterans in James Daniels and Mason Cole. Myles Jack is in at inside linebacker, replacing Joe Schobert, and we’ll have to see if Devin Bush can return to form after last year’s dismal display.
There’s still so much going on, and even coming out of training camp, we’ll only uncover more questions as we go along. We’ll be discussing them here on a daily basis for the community to “talk amongst yourselves”, as Linda Richman might say on Coffee Talk.
Question: How extensively will the Steelers vary their nickel and dime personnel?
This is a question that I have actually been thinking about for months now. Irrespective of top-end talent, the Steelers right now have the most defensive backs on their roster that they are willing to put on the field and play than I can ever recall them having at any other time.
But how often will they use all of them, and in what contexts? Especially following the injury to Damontae Kazee, I fully expect that Levi Wallace will be the primary nickel defender (as in, the extra defensive back in the nickel defense, not the player who lines up in the slot, which would be Cameron Sutton), but who else plays?
Arthur Maulet is a player they seem to like a lot, and he played a lot last year, with indications from training camp that they still intend to play him. They are also getting Tre Norwood on the field, who has been running as their dime defender, but could he be used in a ‘big nickel’ three-safety package the way they were working with Kazee?
And we can even throw out James Pierre, who although he was benched toward the latter stages of last season, was allowed to start several games, and prior to that was even used rotationally because they wanted to see him on the field.
If they hadn’t lost Kazee already, that would give them nine defensive backs they’re fully comfortable with putting on the field. Of course, once he comes back, that opens up the options even further. But will the Steelers actually employ this diversity, or will they just find what works and stick with it?
Realistically speaking, I expect that Wallace will be the nickel and will play about 65 percent of the snaps or so, and Norwood will be the dime defender. Maybe they use Maulet as the nickel in some short-yardage situations. What do you think?