The Steelers had some holes to fill this offseason, but with all the recent happenings let’s reassess.
The Steelers had some needs entering the offseason. They also had some players enter free agency. The Steelers have been uncharacteristically active this offseason so some needs have been filled, others have arisen, some have gotten more urgent, and others remain.
Let’s talk about what’s been fixed first.
Guard – The Steelers briefly needed a guard while Ramon Foster was a free agent. The Steelers signed him pretty quickly to a 3 year deal. It’s like it never happened. Foster is 30 years old at the moment, making it possible that this will be his last contract. He came in undrafted but helped the Steelers build their line from one of the worst to one of the best in the league.
Tight End – This was not a need originally. It was going to be a need inevitably due to Heath Miller’s age but possibly not this soon. Regardless, Heath walked off into the sunset. But very shortly after the Steelers picked up Ladarius Green from the Chargers for a four year deal. Green’s talent has been evident for years but he happened to be stuck on a team with Antonio Gates. Lucky for the Steelers.
Offensive Tackle – The Steelers entered the offseason with Kelvin Beachum hitting free agency. He did a great job for the Steelers and was the NFL’s biggest bargain for several years. He deserved a pay day, and he got it from the Jaguars. Alejandro Villanueva did well last year while Beachum was injured. The Steelers still went out and signed Ryan Harris from the Broncos. So they’re pretty much covered here.
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But some needs still remain. Some of the remaining needs are more urgent than others. I’ve broken them into categories.
We’ve dealt with the taken care ofs. Now the must haves are positions that we literally do not have enough players to fill a roster for. Strongly advise are positions where we technically have a warm body to occupy the spot but there’s significant doubt around that situation. Would be nices are positions where it would be nice to get some more help but we’re probably ok without.
- Must Have
Nose Tackle – So Steve McLendon became a free agent this offseason and he ended up signing with the Jets. This leaves the Steelers with just one player on the roster who is a full time interior d-lineman, Dan McCullers. The Steelers do not appear as though they will resign DT/DE Cam Thomas. The Steelers need a starter, and depth. They’ve not been active in looking. They did interview Louisiana Tech’s Vernon Butler per Chase Goodbread of NFL.com and with a deep DT class may fix this in the draft.
Cornerback – The Steelers have kind of been using a nickel package as their base defense. This typically has three corners. The Steelers don’t have three corners. Pretty much all the corners hit free agency. The Steelers retained Gay and Cockrell but lost Blake to the Titans and probably Boykin eventually as well. Technically they still have Golson and Grant from last year but that’s still thin, and risky to have half the roster played by new players. They’ve been interviewing corners in the draft.
- Strongly Advise
Strong Safety – The Steelers are two deep at the position. They have Shamarko Thomas and Robert Golden. This still isn’t a particularly satisfying position to be in. Thomas should have hit his stride by now, he may have missed the boat. Golden did fine in limited action but is mostly thought of as a special teams player. The Steelers have been talking to a couple free agents and several in the draft. No bites yet.
Backup Quarterback – The Steelers have not signed back Bruce Gradkowski or Michael Vick. It does not appear as though they will either. The offensive line is good and Ben is durable, but Ben is also not as young as he used to be, believe it or not. So the Steelers are going to want to do something before the end of the year, or use Landry Jones. They have spoken to some players in the draft.
Backup Defensive End – As much as Steelers fans gave Cam Thomas a hard time, mostly in his first year, him leaving has left the Steelers with two holes to fill. Thomas’s departure combined with young talent like Nick Williams getting taken from the practice squad over the past couple years has resulted in two great starters and no one else. The Steelers need depth. It’s borderline a must have.
- Would Be Nice
Wide Receiver – Who would have thought this would be here? But with Martavis Bryant out for the year at least, the Steelers could use another wide receiver. Of course they still have Antonio Brown, the best in the league. Wheaton and Heyward-Bey are very capable. And Sammy Coates has shown some things. Ladarius Green will help. But the Steelers still wouldn’t have that deep threat equal to Bryant to push the safeties back.
Offensive Line Depth – Here’s another spot where there’s plenty of good. The starting offensive line is obviously strong, one of the best in the league. The Steelers will have either Villanueva or Harris as a backup tackle. They’ll have Cody Wallace to do work on the inside. But after that, some additional help would be nice.