The Pittsburgh Steelers secondary could look different in 2018

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08: Mike Mitchell
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08: Mike Mitchell /

The Pittsburgh Steelers may have to make some defensive adjustments to make room for a long-term offensive deal.

Right now, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ most important offseason goal is signing Le’Veon Bell to a long-term contract. After making significant progress since last offseason when the team franchised tagged the running back, this year is the make-or-break offseason to get a deal done.

For Pittsburgh, this could mean a change of scenery in the defensive backfield to make way for a deal with Bell. As the Steelers try to clear cap space before inking a deal with the franchise back, they’ll make roster moves to find finances to offer Bell a deal.

Likely the first player to find himself in free agency is William “Big Play” Gay. Probably the Steelers’ smartest secondary member has gone from top corner to role player over the last three seasons. With Cameron Sutton, Artie Burns, Joe Haden and Mike Hilton all returning next season, Gay isn’t a necessity for Pittsburgh.

Having a $2,383,334 cap hit in 2018, chances are the Steelers won’t look to keep him around for another season. Entering his 12th season, Gay could call it a career and retire a member of the Steelers before he’s set to get paid next season.

The second player to see his way out could be Mike Mitchell. While Mitchell’s role in Pittsburgh is still much more significant than Gay’s, the amount of talent at safety in the 2018 NFL Draft could make him a top option to clear cap space.

The safety has become more of a distraction than a bonus to this defense. After a very controversial 2017 season, it seems that most of the fanbase has lost fate in Mitchell, and are looking for the Steelers to draft a replacement in the first two rounds of the draft.

Mitchell is set to receive a $8,135,418 salary hit in 2018. That’s something Pittsburgh isn’t looking to take on for a player likely with a maximum of one season left with the team.

Releasing these two would clear up $10,518,752 for the season. Players would still count towards the dead count, but if Pittsburgh is serious about clearing space for Bell, they’ll be looking to avoid major contracts like these.

Next: Steelers 2017 season awards

There isn’t much to replace besides a young safety, easily findable in the first or second round of the draft. Because of it, fans should expect a new and younger look to the Steelers’ secondary next fall. But should also expect to see Le’Veon Bell smiling with a brand new contract.