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?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • CP72

    I’m going to keep saying it….Chickillo has the same amount of sacks as Dupree despite playing only about a 1/2 of the snaps Dupree has.

  • Iulo

    well I’m intrigued by Shadetree lol…
    really!, he hasn’t played any snaps nor has been activated once.. so what is his role in this team except depth and practice body?

    will he be activated during next games?

  • Andrew

    Chick was a stellar pick. He brings value all over the field. He adds good depth, starting value if needed, and a devil on special teams. That being said, we really need to see what Bud can do. If he truly can’t be relied on as a starter, better to learn it now before his contract is up.

  • Jim McCarley

    I would pick the starters and let them settle in to their jobs. Sure, let them catch a breather from time to time by substituting but if they earned the starting gig then give it to them …..if you pick Chick over Dupree, then fine, but stop swapping them out like sweaty socks. Pick one and go with him until he proves that you made the wrong choice. Maybe a player like Dupree needs the threat of benching to get him to the next level….who knows?

  • ImMikeD

    I agree Andrew. It was widely known that Dupree was a major project with huge upside coming out of school. He’s in his 3rd year, but missed a lot of time and camp last year due to injury. I think the Steelers play him through next year before deciding what to do with him for the future

  • Chad Weiss

    Sutton punt returner,mcdonald over James,should be chick over Dupree but won’t be because Dupree’s draft status.

  • Chad Weiss

    God I wish Steelers took Landon Collins instead of Dupree and Lawson instead of Connor. With that said Colbert is as good as it gets

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Grimble over James as tight end 2.
    Vance as tight end 1.
    Sutton as return man.
    Bryant as wr3.
    Deebo rotating with watt.
    Chickillo rotating with Dupree.
    More use of nix.

    If tuitt is healthy big Dan back to inactive.
    Walton to be primary de/nt backup with alualu.

    I would like a rotation between Mitchell and danger zone but it won’t happen.

  • falconsaftey43

    McCullers’ role is pretty simple, he’s the 6th DL. He will be inactive unless there is an injury on the DL. He’s been active when Tuitt has been out. He doesn’t play much (9 snaps so far this season) because the 5 guys in front of him are better and Hargrave rarely plays enough snaps to need a breather.

  • Stairway7

    Harrison over Moats. I can understand why Debo is one the bench when Watt Chick or Dupree is on the field but in the Detroit game Moats saw some snaps and Debo didn’t-crazy!

  • Michael Mosgrove

    He was activated as soon as tuitt got hurt I believe. Still hasn’t played many snaps because Walton and alualu played.

  • falconsaftey43

    There hasn’t really been any significant rotation at OLB this year. Dupree’s played 80% of the snaps, and that’s with him missing a game.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Chick has improved every year but people still have wanted to cut him every off season. Chicks biggest problem is that hes mostly about 2 steps slow.
    Dupree has the same problem shazier has. Relies on speed and not form. He needs more pass rush moves.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    I disagree. Lawson is meh. Landon Collins maybe. I wish they had gone with Byron Jones in 2015 over Dupree personally.

  • falconsaftey43

    Status quo for the most part. More McDonald, less James. Less WR rotation. AB and JuJu when going 2, Bryant is the 3rd. I think more consistency of which targets are on the field may help Ben. Defense doesn’t need to do anything significantly different. Maybe find 5-7 snaps for Harrison if he’s going to be active. AB needs to stop PR, he’s doing a bad job this season.

  • Chad Weiss

    Lawson is the most polished pass rusher from this past draft.He has 4&1/2 sacks and two more wiped because of penalty . He is very impressive imo and was one of biggest steals in draft. Collins could have been defensive MVP last year. Just my opinion but I’d much rather have Lawson and Collins instead of Dupree and connor

  • Mister Wirez

    I’d like to see a four big man front with Tuitt, Hargrave, Alualu, Heyward. I think they’d give offensive lines problems.

  • Iulo

    so he already played some snaps… sorry, I didn’t notice that…
    I agree with you all, just couldn’t understand why he was not even activated even after Tuitt’s injury, but he was indeed… case closed 😉

  • Mister Wirez

    Yep! Collins is a special player.

  • Iulo

    good points!
    we need just to guess who is cut to bring back Sutton

  • Andrew

    Dupree has developed a lot, but he isn’t there yet. Each year he does look improved. His option year and then contract year are almost upon us, and assuming we pick up his option, we need to determine if he is worth a long contract. I wouldn’t be surprised if we took a mid round pass rusher this year. The class is deep and adding the extra pressure to players is a must. I feel like Dupree can easily be an 8+ sack guy a season, he just needs the extra push

  • Smitty 6788

    I think McDonald will take over as the #1 TE because his blocking is stellar and gives us a different dynamic in the passing game. I think we’re gonna see Bryant used more than just a decoy during the 2nd half of the season.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    my thoughts too but I’ll also get Wilcox in the mix

  • CP72

    Dupree is not very imaginative as a pass rusher. If he doesn’t beat you off the snap he’s done. That hasn’t changed in 3 years.

  • Intense Camel

    Lmao grimble has done nothing

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I’m wondering if we might see more man coverage at times to work on that aspect of the game some more. Also curious to see how the Steelers defend when in passing downs – do they use another safety with everyone healthy?

  • Ken Krampert

    Collins in place of Mitchell. This defense would be extra scary. I liked Lawson as well. He was a great value where he got picked.

  • Ken Krampert

    His role should be as a security guard for a Walmart after we activate Sutton.

  • dany

    funny, but the steelers won’t go with 5 linemen on their roster

  • SteelCity

    Seeing TJ play some middle zone the last game on passing situations…might be something they do more of in the second half

  • LucasY59

    I would like to see him, Harrison and Dupree on the field at the same time on some plays (especially passing downs)

  • Michael Mosgrove

    He hasn’t but he has more upside.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Hunter would be my guess.

  • SteelCity

    Me too….best players and all…

  • Intense Camel

    Which amounts to nothing. He’s an even worse blocker than JJ and I don’t even think he’s caught a pass.

  • falconsaftey43

    If I had to put out a package on known passing downs, it’d probably be a front 4 of Harrison-Heyward-Hargrave-Tuitt. LBs of Watt-Shazier, DBs Burns Haden Hilton Gay Mitchell Davis.

    Not going to be any deception about who is coming, but those are teh 4 best pure pass rushers IMO. Shazier and Watt can do a lot in coverage or be effective if brought as a 5th rusher.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    No he’s not. Grimble smokes Jesse as a blocker.

  • Intense Camel

    JJ is bad, but Grimble is God awful, not sure what you’ve been watching.

  • ATL96STEELER

    If the DEF were struggling I might look for a spark with Chick, but most of the troubles have been on the OFC side of the ball…if you want to get Chick more snaps…no problem…if you think Chick should be manning the left OLB spot full-time…I like his production, but I’m not sure about that.

    I would be looking to make more changes on the OFC and even there it’s not so much personnel…Haley needs to start using more of his roster..period. AB, Bell and a little bit of JSS is not enough imo.

  • nutty32

    The laws of probability and chance say that the good guys are in to experience some (major) injuries in the 2nd half. All these guys and then some will probably need to step up and take on roles beyond planning.

  • Mark

    I would like to see what Chick could do as a starter with Bud in relief. However, I think Bud sets the edge much better than Chick. That’s why Bud’s the starter. Vance must replace Jesse as starting TE, I would also like to see Finney replace Ramon, which ensures we can pull both ways with him and Decastro. I can tell when Ramon is going to pull, he’s is rocking back in his stance.

  • Mark

    That amazes me as well, I would like to see a bull rush, spin, rip, knock lineman hands down, inside rush. Bud looks like a robot!

  • Mark

    We need Deebo when teams have to run the Football late in the season and against the Patriots to have him, Hargrave, tuitt, and Cam push Brady’s line into his lap.

  • Mark

    Not smoke, but he is definitely better than Jesse, I would like to see Grimble get Jesse’s snaps. I think the Colt’s game is a perfect game to test it.

  • LucasY59

    im guessing you meant Hilton/Gay otherwise its 12 defenders

    I agree Watt gives some extra as a pass defender, but would also be useful on Blitzes in that lineup (same with Shazier)

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Disagree but you are entitled to your opinion.

  • Rocksolid20

    Moats is seeing very few snaps so how does that help Debo ?

  • Rocksolid20

    Grimble is useless and my be in danger of being
    let go if we need a spot . The Outlaw is the only
    dependable TEwe have had for the last two years .

  • Rocksolid20

    Go sit in the corner with MB .

  • Rocksolid20

    McDonald has and still stays hurt way too much to
    take The Outlaws spot .

  • Michael Mosgrove

    Dependable my arse.
    James rarely makes a combat catch.
    James rarely gets good blocks.
    James sucks as a pass protector.
    James isn’t a big yac guy.

    I repeat dependable my big Irish arse.

  • Stairway7

    So you think he needs to be kept on the shelf until it getd colf or were play NE?

  • Stairway7

    The point is Moats shouldn’t get ANY snaps while a healthy Debo sits on the bench.

  • GravityWon

    If Cam Sutton or Brian Allen are improving I would like to see them get some of Artie’s snaps until he shows more interest in tackling.

  • Mark

    Yes, no need to bust him out against the Colts, Titans, etc… Save for Bungles, Ratbirds, and Cheatriots.

  • Charles Haines

    Yes one hundred times. I’d also like to see Shazier flying off the corner on blitzes