The NFL is a fast paced league. Cheap rookie salaries combined with a lack of guaranteed money and the viciousness of the sport force players into and out of rosters and lineups. It happens to every team, and will, sure enough, happen to the Steelers. So who are the regression candidates to watch for the on the Steelers roster who will have a much smaller role in 2017?
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Gay is one of the more underappreciated Steelers of the past decade. He has put in 95 starts for the black and gold, playing on the inside and on the outside. He has never been a Pro Bowler or one of the team’s best starters, but he stays on the field and does his job and that cannot be said of too many players.
However, this season may be the start of his decline off into the sunset. Gay started 2016 on the outside, but moved to the slot as Artie Burns came along and became a starter. Now, the team signed Coty Sensabaugh, who can play in the slot, drafted Cameron Sutton, who can play in the slot and has Senquez Golson coming back from injury. Of course, Golson also can play in the slot.
Gay will likely start training camp off as the starter, but if things break right for the Steelers, he would be supplanted by Golson or Sutton at some point early into 2017. With seven seasons of at least ten starts on the Steelers, he may not get to eight.
Could there be some shuffling going on in the slot on offense and defense? It definitely could be so. Rogers had an efficient 2016 season, his first NFL season in the slot. However, the team drafted JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round.
Smith-Schuster could be longtime security for Martavis Bryant, but in the short term, he should be able to get on the field. Despite being a young wide receiver he is very experienced. He has never played in the slot but can profile as a slot player, and with Antonio Brown and Bryant on the outsides, there is a lot of pedigree between the three.
Rogers finished second among wide receivers and third on the team in targets last season. With Bryant in the mix, something would have had to have gone terribly wrong for Rogers to finish at the same height on the totem pole. Add in Smith-Schuster and the fall for Rogers could be even farther than some think in 2017.
Hopefully, he is not reading this. However, even Harrison should understand he is probably playing too many snaps, and his role should be reduced as the closes in on the age of 40. The Steelers drafted T.J. Watt for a reason. He is going to have to earn it, but his job is to split time with Harrison and eventually take over as the full-time starter at outside linebacker next year. Harrison will be around, but he should not be expecting similar snap counts to his 432, 611, and 587 totals of recent years.