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2017 South Side Questions: What Roles Might Change After Bye?

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: From the first half of the season to the second, who’s role is likely to change the most post-bye?

This is a question I have been pondering for the past week or so. The Steelers have gotten through the first half of the season with a 6-2 record, which is pretty good, and about what most expected for them, but they did so while somewhat working on the fly with moving parts.

The bye week is the point at which things are most likely to change. Last year, the Steelers plugged Artie Burns into the starting lineup and began rotating Sean Davis at safety. Are there any changes that we are likely to see being made after the bye this year?

In actuality, I think we have already seen many of the moves made that might have waited until after the bye in years past. I’m not sure, for example, if the team would have been prepared to start the season with Mike Hilton taking over the slot position right from the season opener.

T.J. Watt has been in the starting lineup from the beginning, and JuJu Smith-Schuster is already pretty much a starter. But will they truly make him a starter, over Martavis Bryant, in the sense of playing almost every snap?

One area I think that can be revisited is on special teams, at the punt returner position. I highlighted Antonio Brown’s work on punt returns recently, and he really doesn’t offer very much—plus he still managed to fumble. If he’s not offering ball security, then you might as well give Eli Rogers another shot.

The biggest question I have is what the plan is at tight end. Is Vance McDonald being viewed as the second-half starter? This question is being complicated by the fact that he is coming off a knee injury that caused him to miss a game and a half.

What other roles on the team do you see possibly getting tweaked before Sunday’s game against the Colts?

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