Steelers suffering their first loss off the season, I figured it would be fun
to take a quick look at next off-season to see where the Steelers can improve
upon. Surprisingly, the defense isn’t as big of an issue as it has been in the
past. After a few years of rebuilding, the defense is finally showing the
potential we have been waiting to see. The pass rush seems stout and the
secondary seems improved. The offense has seemed slow, but it still has the
potential to be the best in the league. That being said, the Steelers will need
a good offseason in order to maintain their winning ways. First though, the
Steelers need to address their free agents. *Note: Big Ben decides to stick
around for another season, but James Harrison decides to hang it up. There are two
notable cuts, and both come in the secondary. William Gay, while a key veteran,
is slowing down and the team has Hilton and Sutton gunning for his spot. He
would be too expensive to keep as a reserve, thus leading to his ultimate
release. The other one is Mike Mitchell, the ever inconsistent safety. While I
wouldn’t be against keeping him, his cap hit is very high and this team needs
some relief. With Davis doing everything that Mitchell can and with Wilcox a
viable replacement, Mitchell is forced out the door. Both Gay and Mitchell
could be brought back on cheap deals later (Gay being the more likely of the
two), but it wouldn’t surprise me if both move on to different teams. Before
resigning players, the Steelers now have around 10 million in free cap space.
I honestly don’t see the Steelers bringing any of these guys
back. With Tuitt signed long term, the biggest story will be Bell. After a
sluggish start, I’m sure Bell will turn it around and have a good season, but
he seems to be on pretty sour terms with the Steelers. I expect him to depart
this season. The rest of the FA’s aren’t notable. Moats could be brought back
on a minimum deal, as he would provide a needed veteran presence. Ultimately
though, I feel like he will find another team to latch on with. Hubbard has
potential, and expects to be paid as such. He would be too expensive as a
back-up. McCullers has worn out his welcome, so he goes. Hunter hasn’t played
yet, but if the organization really likes him, he could be brought back. So,
for this writings sake, Moats and Hunter both return on vet minimum deals. All
of our Restricted Free Agents should be brought back, as Chickillo, Rodgers,
Nix, Boswell, Berry, and Fort play solid roles on this team. Finally, from our
Exlusive Rights Free Agents, I would expect: Finney, Grimble, Canaday, Feiler,
Hilton, and Watson to all get brought back. All these tenders keep our core
depth intact and are cheap options that know the system. After all of these
moves, we should be sitting around 2 million in cap space.
There will be little cap space to go around this year for
free agents, but depth can be added to some positions of need. Looking at it
now, the biggest needs the Steelers face are RB, S (need a new starter across
Davis), Future QB, TE, CB, OLB, Back up ILB. With so little in cap space, the
Steelers need to find some good, cheap depth. Here are their signings:
Alfred Morris, RB (1 year Vet Minimum): Morris was once
looked upon as a rising star in Washington, where his bruising style of running
gave way to great seasons early in his career. He took his talents to Dallas,
where he has since been buried. Morris isn’t elite, but with Bell gone, the
Steelers need bodies to pair with Conner at RB. Morris would be another power
back who could get some good carries behind a great offensive line.
Calvin Pryor, S (1 year Vet Minimum): A former high round
pick, Pryor has seen his value tank after being traded and cut this offseason.
He has good size and some talent though, and should provide good depth. The
hope is that a rookie will be able to eventually replace Wilcox.
Not a lot of action in free agency this year, but the cap
strapped Steelers will take the extra depth. Neither player is guaranteed a
spot, but both can provide great depth and possible spot starts.
The Steelers needs remain the same after free agency. Going
into the draft, there is no immediate starter needed, which allows the Steelers
to take a more BPA approach. With seven picks, here is how the draft could
Round 1: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State-
The Steelers should be in a good spot to pick their QB of
the future. With no immediate needs, it will be ok if the first round pick
sits. On top of that, this QB class is deep, meaning a decent option is likely
to fall to the Steelers. While Rudolph needs some development, he has a lot of
potential. Sitting behind Ben for a year or two can only help him.
Round 2: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia-
Back to back offensive picks might hurt the defense, but it
is a must as the Steelers need to add another back to their RB crew. Chubb is a
powerful runner who displays a lot of athleticism. He should be able to form a
very good tandem with James Conner.
Round 3: Van Smith, S, Clemson-
Defense finally gets addressed in the third round, as the
Steelers hope to find their compliment to Sean Davis. While Davis is a physical
run defender that struggles in coverage, Smith provides a better coverage
safety who can help defend the middle. He would share time with Wilcox his
rookie year, and ideally will be able to overtake him by the next season. He
has been slowed by a knee injury this year, but he has some major potential.
Round 5 (from San Francisco): Ade Aruna, OLB, Tulane-
While the starting OLBs and back ups seem set, the Steelers
should still gamble on a pass rusher as this draft class is full of pass
rushers. Aruna comes from a small school, but he is big and physical with a lot
of raw talent. He won’t be a starter in the near future, but he will provide
good depth down the road and could develop into a supplemental pass rusher.
Round 5: Donovan Wilson, CB, Texas A&M-
While Sutton has been limited so far, he flashed a lot of
potential. It isn’t hard to believe he will be a starter somewhere soon. The
CB’s actually aren’t a huge weakness. Haden and Burns are quality starters
while Hilton and Gay are good slot options. While Gay may be gone next year,
it’ll open the door for a rookie to be brought in. Wilson may not play this
year, but he has shown good ability up to that point. He’ll be a solid player
to stash as a backup and could develop into a quality starter over time. Him
and Brian Allen could compete further down the road when Haden leaves the team.
Round 7 (from New York): Nyles Morgan, ILB, Notre Dame-
Vince Williams has been a good starter for the team, as he
brings a hardnosed demeanor to the ILB group. The depth is a different story
though. Tyler Matakevich has been a great special teamer so far, and a decent
depth option. Someone to push him can’t hurt, as he can take the special teams
spot from Fort and Johnson.
Round 7: Maea Teuhema, OG, Southeastern LA-
While the five offensive linemen are set, depth is dealt a
serious blow with Hubbard leaving. Finney will assume top depth inside while
Hawkins will be good depth at tackle, and that opens a spot for a developmental
option. Foster is getting older, and a future replacement needs to be found.
Teuhema is a nasty blocker with some personal troubles. He transferred from LSU
despite looking like a serious prospect after he was suspended indefinitely. He
would be a good piece of clay to mold and a possible future starter once Foster
hangs it up.
With the draft done, there still seems to be a need at TE.
Nobody new was added, but I feel comfortable letting that position go for
another year. There are some early round options, but the draft is relatively
weak at that position. James/McDonald can hold the fort for another season.
With this draft though, the starter of the future is hopefully found, while
good defensive depth is added. Year one won’t yield a lot of results from this
group, but a few years down the road this draft could be paying dividends. What
do you think? Let me know in the comments below.