Kevin Colbert has assembled one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. It is not a roster without some holes that need to be filled however. The following moves are what I would do if I were in his shoes.
- Roster cuts: Colbert has already began carving out salary cap space by restructuring some deals. It’s a good start, but there is more to be done. By cutting Mike Mitchell ($6.5), J.J. Wilcox ($3), and William Gay($1.5) the team stands to save an additional $11 million against the cap. Mitchell is the big name here, but he’s clearly now lost a step. I will discuss how to replace the veteran safety later on in the post. As far as J.J. Wilcox, I’m not even sure how he’s still on the team. He brought nothing to the table in 2017, and can no way justify the $3 million cap hit.
- One more restructure: The elephant in the room in terms of the Steelers salary cap is Joe Haden’s $12 million hit. At this point in his career, Haden is still a good corner in this league. Having said that, $12 million is steep for a “good” corner. This is a very tricky situation because quite frankly Pittsburgh can’t afford to loose him. If Haden forced the team’s hand and refused to take a pay cut, the decision on whether or not to release him outright would have to be made. Some creative cap maneuvering should be all it takes to keep Haden happy, while lowering his bloated cap number.
- Trades: This is where things get very interesting. It’s long been my opinion that the Steelers would be far better off trading Le’veon Bell, rather than signing him to a long-term deal. Neither side wants to go through another drama filled season with Bell under the franchise tag. Some whispers out of Tampa Bay say the Buccaneers are interested in Bell. The first team out of the Bucs, Raiders, Lions, Redskins, 49ers, Giants, Packers, or Colts who’d be willing to pony up a 1st round pick would have themselves a shiny new toy at running back. I’m not stopping there. Let’s call this a purge, because now I’m shopping Martavis Bryant to the highest bidder as well. There may not be a bigger Bryant fan in Steelers nation than yours truly. It’s time to come to the conclusion that he will never realize his enormous potential, but the distractions he creates will never go away. Offer me a third or fourth round pick, and he is all yours. These are two extremely talented players, but also two of the most divisive on the roster. It’s a case of addition by subtraction, with a few good draft picks thrown in.
- Free agent signings: Ok I’ve jettisoned quite a few players, now it’s time to start refilling the cupboard. There are four free agents I would target during the free agency period. First it’s time to add some veteran linebackers in the form of Jerry Attaochu and Zach Brown. Attaochu is worth a flyer as a pass rush specialist to throw in the mix with Watt and Dupree at outside linebacker. Brown is the perfect complement to Vince Williams with his speed and cover ability at inside linebacker. Next, it’s time to address a veteran safety to replace the two that were cut earlier. Kenny Vaccaro would be a good fit for the Steelers at safety. He’s had an up and down career thus far, but a stop in Pittsburgh may be just what he needs to jump-start his play. Finally we need a deep threat to replace Martavis Bryant. Let’s take a flyer on Terrelle Pryor for that spot. He’s of course got limited experience at the wide receiver position, having been a quarterback in college. At 6’5″ and with 4.4 speed, there are lots to work with here. The Steelers have had a knack for developing wide receivers in the past, most of whom don’t have these kind of physical tools.
- Draft: Now that we have an extra first round pick, let’s get to work. Even with signing two free agent linebackers, the Steelers proved you can never have enough depth at that position. With the pick acquired from the Bell trade I’m taking Tremaine Edmunds from Virginia. He’s a big athletic linebacker who is projected to be able to play inside or outside. At pick 28, I’m sweating out running back Sony Michel from Georgia will fall this far. He will kill the upcoming combine, but still may fall behind other backs in this class. Michel could easily make Steelers fans forget their pain of losing Bell. In the second round I’m adding more depth at safety with Deshon Elliot out of Texas. He’s raw, but an exceptional athlete who can sit behind Vaccaro for a year before taking over at free safety. In the third round and going forward it’s pretty much best player available. I’d probably go big wide receiver first, maybe Auden Tate from Florida St. in case Pryor doesn’t work out. Next, I’d look to add a run stuffer type defensive lineman, and possibly a center to develop behind Pouncey.
There you have it my offseason road map for the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers. Feel free to leave your own suggestions or comments on my blog, or