Now that free agency and the draft are behind us, its time to look at where the Steelers still have work to do. Let’s take a look at the position groups that are the weakest heading into next season.
While starters T J Watt and Bud Dupree have proven to be a very good pass rush duo, it’s what’s behind them that is concerning. Anthony Chickillo is an above average special teams player, but that’s where it ends. He offers very little in terms of pass rush as a rotational player on defense. Next we have the unknown quantity in Ola Adeniyi. He did show some flashes last pre-season, but let’s keep in mind Adeniyi was an un-drafted free agent last season. The Pittsburgh Steelers have only used one sixth round pick on this position in the last two drafts, and nothing via free agency. That pick came in the form of the substantially undersized Sutton Smith. This is a position where we will be holding our breath all season that there are no injuries. Anything that keeps the starters out long term could be catastrophic to the defense.
So we have the injury prone Vance McDonald here, and that’s pretty much it. Behind him is the perpetually cuttable Xavier Grimble, and the un-athletic fifth round pick Zach Gentry. The Steelers are really taking a chance heading into the season with this group. You would have to think Kevin Colbert will be keeping a close eye on camp cuts to see if a veteran tight end shakes loose. Expect at least one veteran to be added here before the start of the season.
Remember the days of Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Marcus Wheaton, and Sammie Coates? Not one of those players remain from just a few seasons ago. Now the only proven wide-out on the roster is Ju Ju Smith-Schuster. After him it is one question mark after another. Can Donte Moncrief be anything more than a journeyman player? Can last year’s major disappointment James Washington turn it around? How fast can third round pick Diontae Johnson become a major contributor, if at all? There is a chance this could end up being a very good group. A lot of things would have to hit just right in order for that to happen however.
Let’s break down the safety position for the Steelers. They have a second year player in Terrell Edmunds with upside, but who showed very little in year one. At the other safety spot is the solid but unspectacular Sean Davis. And then you have…….well that’s pretty much it. In a pinch maybe Jordan Dangerfield could fill in at strong safety. His real value is in special teams however, not on defense. Last season’s fifth round pick Marcus Allen also could fill in as a strong safety as well. The team seems to be pretty high on him, based on what I’m not really sure. In fact, it could be argued this team does not have a true free safety on the roster. So if Sean Davis (he’s really best at strong safety too) were to go down, who is the next man up? With no draft picks taken and no free agents brought in at this position, this could become a mess very quickly.