The Steelers’ season has ended and we now must look into the off-season for the black and gold. Free Agency and the NFL Draft will give GM Kevin Colbert some options to improve the team. What positions need an upgrade going into the 2018 season?
This is one of the most obvious needs for the Steelers. Ryan Shazier exited the game with a gruesome and scary injury in the Steelers week 13 match-up against the Cincinnati Bengals. Shazier’s injury leaves many questions on the table for the Steelers moving forward since the middle linebacker was in line for a contract extension in the near future. The Ohio State product’s injury is severe enough to question if he will live a normal life again, let alone play football. Since Shazier’s absence, Sean Spence and the Steelers have really struggled against the run and in coverage from his inside linebacker spot.
This is a need for the Steelers that for some reason cannot be widely agreed upon. Mike Mitchell is a liability that many outside of this site fail to shine light upon. His lack of play-making ability is a concern in its own ( 0 forced turnovers in 2017, 1 fumble recovery. 1 interception in 2016. 0 forced fumbles in 2016-2017. Only 2 passes defensed in 2017). In 2016, he was second on the team in missed tackles, which has been the Steelers kryponite in recent years. Mitchell’s lack of play-making ability and shoddy tackling are also coupled with his lack of cover ability. Deficiencies in coverage are due his late reaction time and his lack of range. A true play-making center fielder who is a reliable tackler can really transform the defense. The need for a free safety doesn’t just lie on Mitchell’s shoulders, the depth at the position is beyond worrisome and must be addressed.
Jesse James had a type of season we all expected. He was drafted in the fifth round to be a number two tight end and through trial and error, has ended up as our starting tight end. James lacks athleticism and is not a reliable run blocker, two attributes of a tight end that are essential. Vance McDonald has been a decent addition to the team, but has had trouble staying healthy. With his $4.6M cap charge in 2018, cutting McDonald is a definite possibility.
Artie Burns has been a disappointment this year. Aside from being bad at tackling in space, the former first round pick has been the highest penalized player on the team with eight penalties (five being defensive pass interference). Joe Haden has been a welcomed addition to the team, but carries a cap charge of almost $12M in 2018. If Haden is not restructured or extended, which I believe will occur, he may be released. The selection of Cam Sutton should bring some optimism to the position, but like Burns, Sutton lacks in physicality. Cody Sensabaugh was a disappointment when he was promoted to starting cornerback when Haden exited with injury. I am still not comfortable with this position.
This position has always been plentiful in Pittsburgh. We have the best wide receiver in the NFL and now have drafted arguably the most promising wide receiver in 2016. Martavis Bryant has one more year on his contract and I don’t think he will be a Steeler in 2019, if not sooner. Eli Rogers has been a huge disappointment and we just haven’t seen much progress out of him. Justin Hunter is a depth piece, along with special team specialist Darrius Heyward-Bey. Adding a slot receiver who has the ability to return kicks and punts would be ideal.
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