The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Who will sit in place of James Harrison on Sunday?
During his weekly conversation with reporters on Thursday, defensive coordinator Keith Butler answered a question in which he revealed that it was his plan for James Harrison to dress this week. The 39-year-old had been a (mostly) healthy scratch for the past two weeks.
The clear reason behind him not dressing for those two games, other than the team being healthy, has been the fact that he did not have a role on special teams, while the other linebackers who were not starters played roles of varying prominence.
Anthony Chickillo, Tyler Matakevich, and L.J. Fort have all become core special teams players, while T.J. Watt has also played intermittently as a starter. Arthur Moats has been used on the punt coverage unit, but he would seem on paper to be the primary candidate to sit in place of Harrison.
Moats has only seen a handful of snaps on defense over the course of the past five weeks, but has had that singular role on defense as the left ‘tackle’ position on the punt coverage unit, where he has recorded, from my recollection, at least one assisted tackle, an induced fair catch, and one punt downed.
If not Moats, then another possibility would be Xavier Grimble at tight end. Though it was due to injury, the Steelers showed they were willing to dress only two tight ends back in week two, and since then, the tackle-eligible has become more prominent again, with both Chris Hubbard and B.J. Finney in that role. He has only a handful of snaps on offense and now only serves primarily as the right wing on punt coverage.
It would be difficult to come up with many other possible candidates. Given their usage of four-receiver and four-cornerback sets, it wouldn’t make sense for them to only dress four and have no backup to take those personnel packages. out of the equation.