Steelers can't afford to stop in free agency ahead of the NFL Draft

The Steelers have made some splash moves this offseason, but they need to continue adding to the roster before the draft kicks off this month

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox (29)
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox (29) / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest moves of the offseason have passed, and all eyes are now on the draft at the end of April. The Steelers, despite their roster turnover, still find themselves with quite a few holes. While the draft will go a long way in figuring those issues out, having huge needs and banking on the right player falling to them is a risky strategy.

While the team doesn’t have to go on a spending spree, they should still be in the market for a few positions in the hopes of at least having a backup plan heading into the draft. This could be both lower-level backup types or even short-term solutions for a position. Here are five moves the Steelers need to mark off their checklist before the draft rolls around.

Steelers need to add a center

There was quite a bit of speculation that the Steelers would be more aggressive in the free-agent center market following the release of veteran starter Mason Cole. While the expectation is for this team to draft their center of the future this year, navigating those waters could be tricky. While I am under the mindset that the centers in this class will fall, there is no guarantee of that.

The free agent center market has dried up, but there are a few names that could start in a pinch and provide the offense with cheap depth. Brian Allen has been the Rams starting center for the past few seasons. Cody Whitehair is a similar story to the Bears. Both have some injury questions but could be starters.

I personally think a reunion with Cole makes the most sense. He knows the system and has been durable. While his play last season was poor, ideally he is only a backup for most of the year. Regardless of who, the Steelers need to land a viable center in case the draft doesn’t pan out as expected.

Steelers need a slot cornerback

Another position that could feasibly be filled in the draft, the issue here isn’t a lack of options but the other needs on this roster. In no particular order, the Steelers could be targeting a receiver, a tackle, a center, a defensive end, and an outside cornerback with their day one and two picks. When you add a slot defender to this mix, something has got to give.

The team has relied on some hodge podge at the position since Mike Hilton departed for the Bengals. While Cam Sutton was good in their on-passing downs, no one has been a true starter there. They have rotated through a series of low-end run-down starters as well. The defense would benefit from a more complete player there.

Avonte Maddox was released by the Eagles this offseason. He struggled to stay healthy last year, but he has proven to be one of the best slot cornerbacks when healthy. Signing him would allow the team to focus its draft resources elsewhere, as he can be an every-down slot defender for this team.

Steelers need a swing tackle

The Steelers, wisely, didn’t invest in a free-agent tackle this offseason. Due to the scarcity of the position and the need for starters there, average players see their contracts get bloated. Dan Moore isn’t great, but I’ll take him at his salary over Jonah Williams at 15 million a season. This draft class is also extremely deep at tackle, so waiting to get your potential starter there makes sense.

My concern is the rigidness of this team with Moore. If the team drafts a tackle early, it seems likely that they will play on the right side, allowing Broderick Jones to move back to the left side. This is the right move in the long-term, but if the team is as uncomfortable as they have claimed to be with Moore playing right tackle (a necessity as the third option on the depth chart), then another reserve is a wise bet.

This doesn’t have to be a flashy name, just someone who can come into camp on the cheap and compete. You could reunite with Chris Hubbard, take a chance on Chumo Edoga, or pay up a little for a premium swing tackle like Cameron Erving. This gives you some more flexibility ahead of the draft and some added tackle depth, all of which is a good thing for the offense.

Steelers need to add one more veteran receiver

Since the team traded away starting wide receiver Diontae Johnson, a huge need has developed at receiver. It seems likely that this team targets a replacement early in the draft, but they still need to fill out their depth chart properly and have options in case of injury.

While the team has added a pair of low-level free agents on minimum deals, they should take one more stab at a more established receiver two. Names like DJ Chark and Russell Gage stick out as obvious names with former connections to the team, or you could go the more conventional route with Tyler Boyd (although that would be the worst of the three options).

You need someone who can serve as that second option until a rookie is ready and why can then shift to a third receiver role afterward. There are a few names that make sense for that, and it would benefit the team to lock that up ahead of the draft.

The Steelers need to sign a veteran edge rusher

The Steelers, for the first time in forever, had great edge rusher depth this past season. Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt have developed into a great duo for this team, while rookie Nick Herbig looked the part of a rotational pass rusher in his limited playing time. Markus Golden was a steady presence as well, but he may opt to play elsewhere given the lack of opportunities in Pittsburgh.

Being four deep at edge rusher is a bit of a luxury, but it is one that the Steelers should attempt to have again. This allows for a regular rotation of bodies to keep the starters fresh and insurance in case of injuries. A reunion with Golden or even Bud Dupree would be great, but this team could also target some more minor names like Bradlee Anae Tyus Bowser. Keeping that room deep is a must though.

Steelers Mock Draft: Pittsburgh looks foolish in this worst-case scenario mock. Steelers Mock Draft: Pittsburgh looks foolish in this worst-case scenario mock. dark. Next

The Steelers are focused on crushing the draft, but they also need to finish filling out their roster. While their biggest moves are likely complete, they can still add a few more free agents to the roster in order to provide themselves some more flexibility in the draft.