In an interview that aired on SNR last week, Steelers President Art Rooney II was asked whether he believed stability could turn out to be a positive for the team during this unique 2020 NFL season.
"You would hope that helps, and I think it should," said Rooney. "Starting with Coach Tomlin, we have someone who has been here a long time, knows the ropes. He's no stranger to encountering a lot of different scenarios. Maybe not this particular one, but he has always been someone who is never afraid of a different challenge, a new challenge. We have most of our coaching staff back, we don't have much turnover in terms of our starting positions, and so hopefully all of that bodes well for us as we head into the season here."
Rooney mentioned the lack of turnover within the starting positions on offense, defense, and among the specialists, and Coach Mike Tomlin's season-opening depth chart confirms that.
Here are some notes/observations about the Steelers' first depth chart of the 2020 season:
• The most popular word on the depth chart is "OR." After Tomlin indicated in a post-practice press briefing after the final workout at Heinz Field he likely would list the starting right tackle on the depth chart as Zach Banner OR Chuks Okorafor, that's exactly how it appears.
• If anyone cares to place any significance on the fact Banner is listed first before the "OR," have at it, but I'm going with the players' surnames being listed alphabetically.
• Also in the "OR" category is the starting tight end where Eric Ebron is listed before Vance McDonald ('E' comes before "M' in the alphabet), and at the backup spot to Devin Bush at inside linebacker where Marcus Allen is listed before Ulysees Gilbert ('A' before 'G').
• The fourth usage of "OR" on this depth chart is at kickoff returner, where Anthony McFarland and Ray-Ray McCloud are listed in that order. Maybe this shoots a hole in my alphabetical theory, OR maybe 'Mc' vs. "Mc' was considered a tie.
• Even though rookie Kevin Dotson is listed as the backup right guard and J.C. Hassenauer is listed as the backup center, my belief is in reality Stefan Wisniewski will be the primary backup at all three interior offensive line spots now that it's time for games to count in the standings.
• Listing Diontae Johnson ahead of James Washington as a starting wide receiver opposite JuJu Smith-Schuster simply confirms what the coaching staff thinks of the second-year pro from Toledo.
• Under the category of "as expected," Benny Snell is the No. 2 running back, and Josh Dobbs is the No. 3 quarterback.
• On defense, Tyson Alualu as the starting nose tackle confirms what had been happening throughout training camp, and Sean Davis listed as the primary backup at both safety spots was a no-brainer once the corresponding move to his addition was waiving Curtis Riley.
• Staying in the defensive backfield, Cam Sutton is listed as the backup nickel to Mike Hilton, but similar to the situation with Wisniewski he might end up being the primary backup to both Joe Haden and Steven Nelson as well.
• At the outside linebacker spots, rookie Alex Highsmith is listed behind Bud Dupree at right outside linebacker and Ola Adeniyi is listed behind T.J. Watt at left outside linebacker, and since both starters are given occasional plays off during every game it will be interesting to see whether this setup holds or if Highsmith turns out to be the No. 3 outside linebacker and therefore is first off the sideline.
• Finally, Tomlin lists backups at both returner spots – McCloud behind Johnson as the punt returner, and with the "OR" situation existing at kickoff returner – but there are no backups/emergency options listed behind the punter, placekicker, or long-snapper.