The Steelers have eighteen players whose contracts will expire at the start of the new league year on Wednesday, March 9th.
We now transition into the defense, where the Steelers have the majority of their free agents this offseason and where some tough decisions will need to be made. The Steelers made some huge improvements on the defense in Keith Butler’s first year as defensive coordinator.
They went from a unit that gives up a ton of yards and points, doesn’t take the ball away and hardly ever gets after the quarterback to a unit that gives up a ton of yards but not a ton of points, takes the ball away and gets after the quarterback.
Many improvements can be made this offseason with the Steelers defense but Butler certainly has the unit headed in the right direction. He had the defensive lineman get more involved in the pass rush rather than to be used purely to occupy blockers and it has allowed Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward to flourish.
The linebackers are improving and getting more sacks. While Jarvis Jones’ progression has been the slowest of the group he’s still got an upward arrow and Ryan Shazier was able to take over defensive play-calling by the end of the season. Bud Dupree had the best production out of a rookie linebacker for the last three years.
The Steelers have decisions to make on the free agency of Clifton Geathers, Steve McLendon, Cam Thomas and Sean Spence. Which way they’ll go with these guys will determine if this defense can keep going in the right direction.
Next: Clifton Geathers