Pittsburgh Steelers: Previewing the 2018 offseason plan of attack

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Ben Roethlisberger
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Ben Roethlisberger /

The Pittsburgh Steelers run ended abruptly following a 45-42 divisional round loss to Jacksonville. The offseason begins now and the Steelers have many decisions to make heading into it.

The Pittsburgh Steelers offseason has started earlier than anyone wanted it to. With that said, there are many thing the team has to address between now and the 2018 season.

First things first, Mike Tomlin decided not to renew the contract of offensive coordinator Todd Haley. This decision came swiftly and without much comment from Tomlin.

The majority of Steelers fans were ready to see Haley go for a while now. His questionable decision-making at key points in games among other factors were enough to want him out.

Pittsburgh wasted no time in replacing the position as he promoted QB coach Randy Fichtner. Fichtner will continue his role as QB coach as well as step into his new OC role.

Fichtner and Ben Roethlisberger have a good relationship between them. This was also likely a deciding factor if the reports of Haley and Roethlisberger’s rift are true.

The coaching staff also had another shake up. Pittsburgh’s receivers coach, Richard Mann, also announced his retirement so they will be looking to replace that position next.

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Many fans would love Hines Ward to be considered and, given his involvement in camp and with JuJu Smith-Schuster in preseason, I could see this happening. A report was made yesterday naming Ward as the “heavy favorite” to land the job.

The Steelers have a few players to decide on this offseason as well. The biggest of which obviously being star back Le’Veon Bell.

Bell has made it known he does not want the franchise tag a second straight season. He has even gone as far as threatening to sit out 2018 or even retiring from football if tagged.

The Steelers had an offer on the table last offseason which Bell rejected. Bell’s agent reportedly had accepted the deal before Bell vetoed the decision, a report the agent later denied.

The Steelers will likely tag Bell to bide time for a long-term deal to be negotiated before the deadline. The team will have one last shot if that happens because after the second tag, they cannot afford a third tag as prices go up exponentially.

Pittsburgh also has a few free agents they will have to decide on signing. Roosevelt Nix, Chris Hubbard and Sean Spence just to name a few.

The Steelers will likely only sign Nix. Hubbard played himself into a starting role elsewhere and Pittsburgh will not be able to afford the money he will command.

There are a number of Steelers free agents who are restricted or exclusive rights. There are only a handful who will likely not be back.

The team will approach free agency with some holes to fill. The defensive side of the ball has to get better in some spots.

Safety and inside linebacker are the Steelers two primary needs heading into free agency and he draft. They need to also make a decision of whether to keep Mike Mitchell for the last year of his deal or make him a cap casualty.

Mitchell’s last two seasons were injury-plagued and that slowed him down. It will not be surprising to see him cut before the season.

With Ryan Shazier‘s future in question, the Steelers’ focus will be finding a capable inside linebacker because Sean Spence is not the long-term solution. They need to address this in the draft and get another young inside linebacker to pair with Vince Williams.

The offense does not need much to continue its dominance in the 2018 season. Big Ben coming back keeps them in a position to put up numbers with the ball in their hands.

Pittsburgh has seven picks in the draft but none in round four or round six. They will pick 28th in rounds one, two, three, five, and seven. They have the ninth pick of the fifth round and the second pick of the seventh round as parts in their deals with San Francisco and New York.

The Steelers will approach the draft with heavy focus on defense again. Inside linebacker and safety will be the top two positions to keep an eye on.

With the Steelers projected to have limited cap space, the draft will be where they fill their needs. The youth movement has worked well the past few years getting players such as T.J. Watt, Sean Davis, Javon Hargrave and Juju Smith-Schuster.

The Steelers could get creative with the cap to allow space to sign some veterans before the draft but there is not much wiggle room. They will need to trust in the scouting and ride their youth movement now more than ever.

Next: 2017 Steelers Season Awards

The Steelers have a lot of issues to address both on and off the field before the start of 2018. This will be a telling offseason for the Steelers and could make or break their Super Bowl hopes next season.