With the regular season quickly rearing its head, we are finally beginning to piece together some concrete data to attempt to draw conclusions about the Pittsburgh Steelers and who they will be during the 2022 season.
With new quarterbacks, new coaches in new roles, even a new stadium name, there is plenty of change, creating an environment of even less predictability. That includes the new general manager, which could potentially introduce new variables we will have to learn to adjust to over the years when making our own projections of what decisions the team will make.
These sorts of uncertainties are 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).
Topic Statement: The Steelers will start dressing only five defensive linemen as they get more game conditioning in.
Explanation: Head coach Mike Tomlin said, as he always does this year, that he plays a lot more players in the early portions of the season than he would later on because of endurance issues. The Steelers dressed six defensive linemen in the season opener and played all six of them, but that doesn’t mean the plan for Week 1 will be the plan for Week 6 or 11.
There is a natural hierarchical reshuffling that goes on during the course of the season, both within positions and within the structure of the roster. There are plenty of documented cases of teams, including the Steelers, making different decisions about who to dress for factors that are not related to injury availability.
The Steelers being at the very beginning of the season makes it much more likely that they would want to dress and play six linemen, which is not really something they’ve ever done before. The only time they dressed six linemen previously for non-injury reasons was when they had Henry Mondeaux running down kicks.
DeMarvin Leal isn’t running down kicks, so expect him or another lineman to lose his hat at some point, perhaps after Calvin Austin III returns from injury and earns himself a hat.
The first question you have to ask yourself is this: who dresses if a sixth lineman doesn’t? As a reminder, here was the inactive list for Week 1: QB Mason Rudolph; WR Steven Sims; G Kendrick Green; DL Isaiahh Loudermilk; ILB Mark Robinson.
So you face the question of either dressing too many defensive linemen or dressing too many wide receivers, too many linebackers, too many quarterbacks, or too many offensive linemen. With Sims’ skill set being redundant, Leal offers the best bang for your buck because of his ability to rush the passer, which you don’t typically find in defensive line depth. He’s a high-pedigreed rookie who is getting the opportunity to get his feet wet with the team, knowing that the plan is for him to start someday.