The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the midst of a three game losing streak, and now are clinging to their playoff lives. A good portion of the team’s struggles can be directly attributed to the fact that this team did not shore up it’s weaknesses during the offseason. Usually, Kevin Colbert can find a gem or two when he does his bargain basement free agent shopping. No such luck this time, as this free agent class has been a major disappointment to say the least. Colbert didn’t fair much better during the draft either. The 2018 draft has failed to produce even one impact player this season. Then again, we knew going in most of that draft was geared toward the future. The only player with real expectations of making an impact in 2018 was wide receiver James Washington, and well ….we know how that’s turned out. The Steelers are now struggling, and the lack of talent to brought in to bolster the roster is a big factor.
Let’s start with trades and free agency. Obviously the team did not have a great amount of cap space to work with from the get go. The fourteen plus million of cap space that was on hold while the Steelers did their dance with Le’Veon Bell didn’t help matters at all. Not cutting ties with Bell in the offseason cost this team cap space, and preparedness for a possible injury to James Conner. All that said, Kevin Colbert and company are never really big players in the free against market anyway. His latest crop of free agents can be rightfully described as a disaster. Morgan Burnett was brought in to be the nickel backer this team has sorely missed over the years. Despite his injury history and his age, Burnett was given a three year fifteen million dollar contract. The results are not surprising. Burnett has struggled to stay on the field, and even when healthy has done nothing to help this defense. We knew what Jon Bostic was when the Steelers signed him, a run stuffing linebacker with no pass coverage ability. Well now his run-stopping ability has become a liability. Opposing teams are actively trying to isolate Bostic in coverage whenever he is on the field. Keith Butler is having a hard time finding situations to get him on the field at this point. The trade front doesn’t do Colbert’s offseason any favors either. Sure, the trade for Ryan Switzer has finally settled the Steelers return game. That’s no small thing considering how bad it was in previous years. But then there’s the Martavis Bryant deal. This trade was universally hailed as one of the best trades of the offseason. Getting a third round pick for a deeply troubled soon to be free agent is a really good haul. The unfortunate part is Colbert never adequately replaced Bryant on the roster, and the team has had no luck finding a deep threat from within.
Replacing Martavis Bryant brings us to the draft side of the 2018 offseason. James Washington was not only drafted to take Bryant’s place, he was the only draft pick who projected as an impact player in year one. Most people thought this was a slam dunk considering the Steelers almost never miss on a wide receiver in the draft. While it is still early to call Washington a complete bust, we can call his rookie season just that. First round pick Terrell Edmunds wasn’t thought of as a guy who would see extended playing time. The Steelers already had their starting safeties in Sean Davis and Morgan Burnett. Quarterback Mason Rudolph was never expected to play as long as Ben Roehtlisberger was around. Rudolph hasn’t even dressed for a single game, having been beat out by Josh Dobbs for the backup quarterback spot. Chucks Okorafor and Jaylen Samuels have made only slight contributions in their first year. Why in the world the Steelers drafted ANOTHER safety in Marcus Allen is a complete mystery given how many other needs the team still had. It was clear then, and it is clear now, that this draft was aimed more at securing the team’s future rather than helping the present squad.
The bottom line here is Kevin Colbert completely misjudged the talent of the 2018 Steelers. He thought they were good enough even without Ryan Shazier and Martavis Bryant. They’re not. He thought that Sean Davis and Artie Burns would finally take the leap and become quality players. They haven’t. He thought it was a good idea to start drafting for the future, rather than making bold moves to bolster the current roster. It wasn’t. Finally, he thought Mike Tomlin and his staff were good enough to “coach up” this group of players. They’re not.