Open Rants by Steeler17

A Look At Next Offseason
Published at 9/28/2017
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               With the Steelers suffering their first loss off the season, I figured it would be fun to take a quick look at next off-season to see where the Steelers can improve upon. Surprisingly, the defense isn’t as big of an issue as it has been in the past. After a few years of rebuilding, the defense is finally showing the potential we have been waiting to see. The pass rush seems stout and the secondary seems improved. The offense has seemed slow, but it still has the potential to be the best in the league. That being said, the Steelers will need a good offseason in order to maintain their winning ways. First though, the Steelers need to address their free agents. *Note: Big Ben decides to stick around for another season, but James Harrison decides to hang it up. There are two notable cuts, and both come in the secondary. William Gay, while a key veteran, is slowing down and the team has Hilton and Sutton gunning for his spot. He would be too expensive to keep as a reserve, thus leading to his ultimate release. The other one is Mike Mitchell, the ever inconsistent safety. While I wouldn’t be against keeping him, his cap hit is very high and this team needs some relief. With Davis doing everything that Mitchell can and with Wilcox a viable replacement, Mitchell is forced out the door. Both Gay and Mitchell could be brought back on cheap deals later (Gay being the more likely of the two), but it wouldn’t surprise me if both move on to different teams. Before resigning players, the Steelers now have around 10 million in free cap space.

               In House:

I honestly don’t see the Steelers bringing any of these guys back. With Tuitt signed long term, the biggest story will be Bell. After a sluggish start, I’m sure Bell will turn it around and have a good season, but he seems to be on pretty sour terms with the Steelers. I expect him to depart this season. The rest of the FA’s aren’t notable. Moats could be brought back on a minimum deal, as he would provide a needed veteran presence. Ultimately though, I feel like he will find another team to latch on with. Hubbard has potential, and expects to be paid as such. He would be too expensive as a back-up. McCullers has worn out his welcome, so he goes. Hunter hasn’t played yet, but if the organization really likes him, he could be brought back. So, for this writings sake, Moats and Hunter both return on vet minimum deals. All of our Restricted Free Agents should be brought back, as Chickillo, Rodgers, Nix, Boswell, Berry, and Fort play solid roles on this team. Finally, from our Exlusive Rights Free Agents, I would expect: Finney, Grimble, Canaday, Feiler, Hilton, and Watson to all get brought back. All these tenders keep our core depth intact and are cheap options that know the system. After all of these moves, we should be sitting around 2 million in cap space.

               Free Agency:

There will be little cap space to go around this year for free agents, but depth can be added to some positions of need. Looking at it now, the biggest needs the Steelers face are RB, S (need a new starter across Davis), Future QB, TE, CB, OLB, Back up ILB. With so little in cap space, the Steelers need to find some good, cheap depth. Here are their signings:

Alfred Morris, RB (1 year Vet Minimum): Morris was once looked upon as a rising star in Washington, where his bruising style of running gave way to great seasons early in his career. He took his talents to Dallas, where he has since been buried. Morris isn’t elite, but with Bell gone, the Steelers need bodies to pair with Conner at RB. Morris would be another power back who could get some good carries behind a great offensive line.

Calvin Pryor, S (1 year Vet Minimum): A former high round pick, Pryor has seen his value tank after being traded and cut this offseason. He has good size and some talent though, and should provide good depth. The hope is that a rookie will be able to eventually replace Wilcox.

Not a lot of action in free agency this year, but the cap strapped Steelers will take the extra depth. Neither player is guaranteed a spot, but both can provide great depth and possible spot starts.

               The Draft

The Steelers needs remain the same after free agency. Going into the draft, there is no immediate starter needed, which allows the Steelers to take a more BPA approach. With seven picks, here is how the draft could shake out.

Round 1: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State-

The Steelers should be in a good spot to pick their QB of the future. With no immediate needs, it will be ok if the first round pick sits. On top of that, this QB class is deep, meaning a decent option is likely to fall to the Steelers. While Rudolph needs some development, he has a lot of potential. Sitting behind Ben for a year or two can only help him.

Round 2: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia-

Back to back offensive picks might hurt the defense, but it is a must as the Steelers need to add another back to their RB crew. Chubb is a powerful runner who displays a lot of athleticism. He should be able to form a very good tandem with James Conner.

Round 3: Van Smith, S, Clemson-

Defense finally gets addressed in the third round, as the Steelers hope to find their compliment to Sean Davis. While Davis is a physical run defender that struggles in coverage, Smith provides a better coverage safety who can help defend the middle. He would share time with Wilcox his rookie year, and ideally will be able to overtake him by the next season. He has been slowed by a knee injury this year, but he has some major potential.

Round 5 (from San Francisco): Ade Aruna, OLB, Tulane-

While the starting OLBs and back ups seem set, the Steelers should still gamble on a pass rusher as this draft class is full of pass rushers. Aruna comes from a small school, but he is big and physical with a lot of raw talent. He won’t be a starter in the near future, but he will provide good depth down the road and could develop into a supplemental pass rusher.

Round 5: Donovan Wilson, CB, Texas A&M-

While Sutton has been limited so far, he flashed a lot of potential. It isn’t hard to believe he will be a starter somewhere soon. The CB’s actually aren’t a huge weakness. Haden and Burns are quality starters while Hilton and Gay are good slot options. While Gay may be gone next year, it’ll open the door for a rookie to be brought in. Wilson may not play this year, but he has shown good ability up to that point. He’ll be a solid player to stash as a backup and could develop into a quality starter over time. Him and Brian Allen could compete further down the road when Haden leaves the team.

Round 7 (from New York): Nyles Morgan, ILB, Notre Dame-

Vince Williams has been a good starter for the team, as he brings a hardnosed demeanor to the ILB group. The depth is a different story though. Tyler Matakevich has been a great special teamer so far, and a decent depth option. Someone to push him can’t hurt, as he can take the special teams spot from Fort and Johnson.

Round 7: Maea Teuhema, OG, Southeastern LA-

While the five offensive linemen are set, depth is dealt a serious blow with Hubbard leaving. Finney will assume top depth inside while Hawkins will be good depth at tackle, and that opens a spot for a developmental option. Foster is getting older, and a future replacement needs to be found. Teuhema is a nasty blocker with some personal troubles. He transferred from LSU despite looking like a serious prospect after he was suspended indefinitely. He would be a good piece of clay to mold and a possible future starter once Foster hangs it up.

With the draft done, there still seems to be a need at TE. Nobody new was added, but I feel comfortable letting that position go for another year. There are some early round options, but the draft is relatively weak at that position. James/McDonald can hold the fort for another season. With this draft though, the starter of the future is hopefully found, while good defensive depth is added. Year one won’t yield a lot of results from this group, but a few years down the road this draft could be paying dividends. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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