The Pittsburgh Steelers will be expecting more production out of their offensive tackles in 2014, although they may not seek upgrades outside the organization due to insufficient funds.
What early draft picks the Steelers have already invested in their offensive line over the past few years should have been more than enough to solidify a struggling offensive front. In the end, it may still be. Mike Adams and Kelvin Beachum will be entering their third seasons as professionals in 2014. Marcus Gilbert showed significant improvement in 2013, his third year; and will be entering the final year of his rookie contract.
The other two tackles from the 2013 roster are Guy Whimper and Levi Brown. Whimper will be an unrestricted free agent following the season, and his play has not warranted a second tour-of-duty. Brown was acquired via trade from the Arizona Cardinals, but tore a tricep during warmups prior to his first game with the Steelers, landing immediately on IR.
Brown may get a second chance to be a member of the Steelers, but he is guaranteed to get cut following the season.
In 2014, the Steelers will begin the year with a team cap figure over $134 million. When looking for places to clear cap space, it's difficult to escape the hefty cap hit next to Brown's name.
The reason Brown is guaranteed to be released at some point this off-season is the way his contract is structured following his trade from the Arizona, who were forced to eat any dead money associated with his contract before shipping him to Pittsburgh.
Because no dead money exists on Brown's contract, the team can cut him with zero cap liability. The amounts listed in blue represent $250,000 workout bonuses in each year. The Steelers are more likely to release him at the beginning of the league year, then offer him a more modest offer if they are willing to give him a serious opportunity in training camp, should he not garner any attention as a free agent.
Even if Brown and Whimper aren't veterans given second opportunities, the release of Brown will afford the Steelers the opportunity to acquire an upgrade to their depth, even if they do not attempt to upgrade their starting options.
Combined with other proposed movements so far in this series, the team is accumulating cap room with plenty of roster opportunity for draft additions; although the team is far from out of the woods as far as the cap is concerned.
The Steelers need to give the Adams-Gilbert combination another season to prove themselves worthy before attempting to spend anymore early draft picks on the situation.
The team would be better served to sign a solid average tackle to bolster the position should the team need to address the situation in the drafts of 2015 and/or 2016. If any picks are spent on tackles in 2014, it will most likely be the late-round variety, especially considering what the team was able to find in Beachum in the seventh-round.