It’s safe to assume that players like Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown will have big seasons on offense. Same goes for Cam Heyward and Lawrence Timmons on defense. The following 5 players are wild cards, who if they play well, could take the Steelers the next level.
1. Shamarko Thomas: At the 2013 draft Pittsburgh thought so highly of Thomas, they traded a 3rd round pick to get him. Three seasons later, Thomas has yet to earn the starting safety position. He has the speed and the physicality to be an outstanding safety in the NFL. The knock on Shamarko is his inability to grasp the Steelers system. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler doesn’t have many other options at safety to go along with Mike Mitchell. The only other safety under contract at his point is Robert Golden, who has never started a game at safety in his career. Shamarko Thomas has the exact skill set the Steelers need in a safety, the question is can they get him on the field.
2. Cortez Allen: There is still doubt whether Cortez Allen will even be on the team when training camp rolls around. At $6 million per season, Allen has been rumored to be cut due to his inability to stay healthy. Allen left the first game at halftime last season, and was put on injured reserve shortly after . It’s no secret the Steelers have a glaring need at corner. If Cortez Allen were ever to regain the form that led to his big contract signing, it would be a huge boost to Pittsburgh’s secondary.
3. Jarvis Jones: Pittsburgh’s first round pick in 2013, Jarvis Jones has never really lived up to expectations. In three seasons with the Steelers, Jones has a total of 5 sacks. That’s just not good enough for an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Last season saw some glimpses of hope for Jones. He is excellent against the run, and did well in pass coverage as well. What the Steelers really need from Jones though, is a consistent pass rush.
4. Sammie Coates: Now that Martavis Bryant has been suspended for the entire 2016 season, Pittburgh will need Sammie Coates to take over the number two receiver spot. We got a peek at what Coates could do in the playoff game against Denver last season. In that game, Coates had 2 catches for 61 yards and looked very dangerous. He has great speed, and at 6’1″, has the size do be a good target for Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers have a great track record drafting recievers lately, let’s hope Coates is the next in line to breakout in 2016.
5. Ladarius Green: Pittsburgh signed Green as a free agent after the retirement of long time standout Heath Miller. Green is a different type of tight end then Miller though, as he is more of a receiver then a blocker. Ironically Green may help fill the void left by Bryant’s suspension, rather then replacing Heath Miller. Ladarius Green gives the Steelers something they’ve never had, a big target with speed in the middle of the field. They will need him to take a big chunk of the catches that are missing with the losses of Miller and Bryant.