Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agency Preview

Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agency Preview
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Season Review

The Steelers 2018 campaign was very much a story of wasted promise. With an overwhelming offense, Pittsburgh started strong, with James Conner taking up the starting running back mantle from Le’Veon Bell. Ben Roethlisberger passed for over 5,000 yards and 34 touchdowns while both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown were over 1,200 yards.

Unfortunately, the Steelers lost 4 of their last 6 games after starting 7-2-1. With Conner banged up they only scored 30 points once in those last 6. Despite a solid defensive effort the Steelers failed to make the playoffs and looked deflated in their latter games.

2018 Record

9-6-1

Cap Space

The Steelers are unlikely to be big players in Free Agency due to limited cap space. The salary cap has been set at $188.2 million and the Steelers traded away disgruntled receiver Antonio Brown which will leave $21.12 million in dead money for 2019. With this accounted for Pittsburgh have $16,468,259 in cap space.

Players who will become free agents

Unrestricted free agents

(Free to sign with any team)

RB Le’Veon Bell, RB Stevan Ridley, TE Jesse James, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR Justin Hunter, WR Eli Rogers, G Ramon Foster, DE Tyson Alualu, LB Anthony Chickillo, LB Ryan Shazier, CB Coty Sensabaugh

Restricted free agents

(Free to sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Steelers have the right to match it)

G Trey Hopkins

Exclusive free agents

(Can only sign with the Steelers, unless the team decides not to make an offer by March 13)

G Matt Feiler

Possible Free Agent Targets

1) Cornerback has been a weakness for the Steelers in recent years and unless they address the position in the draft and free Agency this will likely continue. Bryce Callahan played predominantly in the slot last year but played well. Bringing him in would at least provide a solid option. Ronald Darby is an experienced corner who would instantly upgrade the black and gold’s defence or they could take a flyer on talented Jason Verrett, who has had three injury plagued years.

2) Bud Dupree has hovered between inconsistent and disappointing. Challenging him by adding an outside linebacker with impressive blitzing skills opposite T.J. Watt would allow the Steelers to be more versatile on defence. Veteran Justin Houston, who was released by Kansas City, may be 30 but he’s played at an impressive level the last 2 years.

Another veteran star, Clay Matthews, has lost a step and his play dropped off in recent years. Would a change of location, coupled with Pittsburgh’s aggressive defensive revitalise his career? Matthews offer versatility too, having played both inside and outside and breached double figure sacks four times in his career. On the other hand, the younger Shaquil Barrett, formerly of Denver, would also fit and is likely to to have less demand.

3) The Steelers must replace the pass production of Antonio Brown (1297 and 15 touchdowns) and Jessie James (423 and two touchdowns). JuJu Smith-Schuster is a legitimate star and Vance McDonald showed progress but behind him there’s very little else.

Imagine the Steelers adding Golden Tate, who’s still electric with the ball in his hands. Tate is impressively consistent and during his last two full seasons in Detroit accounted for 1,077 and 1,003 yards. He’s also a big play threat who would compliment the Steelers existing weapons. Former Raven, Michael Crabtree, would also be a solid alternative and is unlikely to command such a high price.

At tight end, adding Tyler Eifert would likely be a low cost move but he’s barely seen the field each of the last 3 years. If he is able to stay healthy and returns to anywhere near his pre injury, Pro Bowl level, the Steelers would have one of the steals of Free Agency.

Improved corner play and replacing Brown’s production are key to the Steelers’ hopes of a playoff return in 2019. However the search for corner help is one that has been fruitless in recent years.

Previous AFC North Previews

Bengals

Ravens

Browns

Enjoy this article? Feel free to leave a comment or follow more of my writing on Twitter @Cumbleton. I write about the AFC North for Ninety Nine Yards, covering the Ravens, Bengals, Browns, and Steelers and also cover the AAF.

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