It’s the offseason and the Pittsburgh Steelers were a team that made it to the AFC Championship game with a defense, and offense, missing key starting players due to injury or suspension. In 2017, expect these players to be back in action and for the NFL Draft and offseason free agent signings to play a huge role in the Steelers making it even further.
Pittsburgh has the 30th overall pick in the NFL Draft and while it is most certain that the organization will draft an edge rusher on defense, there are still key areas that need to be addressed if this team wants to win a Super Bowl anytime soon.
Here are the key positions that need to improve:
1. Outside linebacker (Edge Pass Rusher)
3. Defensive Line (Depth)
4. Tight End
5. Running Back
Let’s take a look at free agent athletes that could make their way to Pittsburgh during the offseason.
Please Note: This is my wish list. I tried to make it realistic by the salary cap numbers and how productive the player truly is. Feel free to leave your wish list down below.
OLB/ Pass Rusher:
This position most likely will be filled in the NFL Draft, but for the sake of a wish list here are two athletes that would be a great backup and give veteran linebacker James Harrison some extra breathing time. Jarvis Jones is a free agent and most likely will not return in 2017. His non-productive activity makes him just a wasted 53-man athlete.
Courtney Upshaw – $1,250,000 AAV (Average Annual Value ) – Upshaw is a veteran pass rusher that has the ability to get to the quarterback. The 27-year old outside linebacker was not used like he was back when he was with the Baltimore Ravens. He ended the 2016 regular season with 24 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. These statistics don’t show the type of player Upshaw truly is.
Junior Galette – $1,600,000 AAV (Average Annual Value) – Talk about a player that has been explosive in the past, but his last two seasons had the worst of luck. Galette is currently with the Washington Redskins but probably not for much longer. He ruptured both of his achilles the last two years and might not be as explosive as he once was. I don’t see the Redskins re-signing Galette due to his recent injuries. While this is an absolute gamble for Pittsburgh, it could end up being a good pick up if he is indeed 100% healthy in 2017.
While the Steelers never sign huge free agent names, they love to add some veteran depth to their roster every offseason. Here are several athletes that could be perfect for backup roles and maybe come in and play during different packages that Keith Butler has setup.
Kayvon Webster – $686,450 AAV (Average Annual Value ) – After being placed on the injured reserve in December of 2016 due to a concussion, Webster’s future in Denver is in doubt. In the Mile High City, there are three starting cornerbacks that are all solid athletes. Bradley Roby, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. If John Elway and the Broncos organization want to get rid of Webster to save money, it’s always possible for Pittsburgh to sign him up. The only red flag that I can see is his concussion. Remember what happened to Ladarius Green? Pittsburgh just might pass but if they don’t they will get a solid athlete for an improving secondary.
Fun Fact: Webster and Antonio Brown are long-time friends. If you follow Brown on snapchat the two athletes have hung-out a few times before and the Bronco defender gave Brown a close up of his Super Bowl L ring. This friendship could help Pittsburgh sign him this offseason.
Logan Ryan – $693,313 2016 AAV (Average Annual Value ) – Ryan is having an incredible year with the Patriots. It is very possible for him to hit the free agent market and the Steelers go after him for not only depth at the cornerback position but as a true starter. It has happened in the past but, like I said above, don’t hold your breath. Head coach Bill Belichick loves to use players for several years and get rid of talent for cheaper individuals. Look at Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins, Sr. for examples. Two of their best pass rushers no longer on the team and they still are making a trip to Super Bowl LI. It’s possible to grab Logan, but don’t get too excited.
Defensive Line Depth:
Ricardo Mathews was an offseason signing that proved to be quite costly for Pittsburgh. The injuries to Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt pushed Mathews into action. Expect the Steelers to sign one or two defensive front players in free agency and draft some players to be even more safe than in 2016. Injuries can always change the complexity of a season.
Charles Johnson – $3,000,000 AAV (Average Annual Value) – Johnson is a 30-year old free agent defensive end for the Carolina Panthers. He registered four sacks in 2016 but his age and being with the team since 2007 could force the team to move on from him. The Panthers have a tendency to draft players, have them suit up for years and then when they think they are falling off, they drop them. Examples: DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith Sr.
Abry Jones – $2,553,000 AAV (Average Annual Value) – When you are a defensive tackle and are getting paid $2 million dollars and only registered 32 tackles and no sacks or interceptions, you might just have to find another team in 2017. Abry Jones of the Jacksonville Jaguars is just like Jarvis Jones but seems to be more productive. Abry Jones has 5.5 career sacks since 2013 and is a defensive tackle. Jarvis Jones has 6 sacks and is a linebacker that was drafted in the first-round. Abry was an undrafted athlete. You do the math. I would love to have an experienced defensive front player that can just provide depth when needed.
I don’t see the Steelers going after another tight end in free agency after last year’s debacle with Ladarius Green. In 2017, expect Green to stay the main starter with Jesse James as a backup. James is an athlete that is only 22 years of age and is the future of the franchise. While he still has a long way to go, his future is looking bright in the Steel City. As for Green, if he can stay healthy next year and just provide some explosiveness like he did in 2016, there is no reason for him not to stay in a black-and-gold uniform. Just in case, here is just one free agent athlete that I could see wearing a Steelers uniform. Just one because the other UDFA tight ends are nothing special and I don’t see any coming to Pittsburgh.
Ryan Griffin – $559,670 AAV (Average Annual Value ) – With the emergence of tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, it’s possible that Pittsburgh signs the former sixth-round draft pick for a small one-year contract this offseason. He has the experience and ability to be a blocking or receiving tight end. Would you rather have David Johnson running routes or Griffin? You choose.
Le’Veon Bell is a free agent and so is veteran backup DeAngelo Williams. I can see both athletes getting deals done this offseason. Pittsburgh just signed running back Karlos Williams to a future contract. Williams was suspended for four NFL games but commissioner Goodell lifted the suspension a few days ago. If he stays healthy and doesn’t do anymore illegal activity, he could just become a second-string back behind Bell in 2017. There is no reason to draft a running back or sign one via free agency. The depth is there if the deals get done. If they don’t, here are two athletes that I would love to see in a Steelers uniform.
Christine Michael – $725,000 AAV (Average Annual Value ) – Michael has bounced around the league so many times in his short NFL career. The Green Bay Packers didn’t utilize him very highly and turned to Ty Montgomery. With Eddie Lacy potentially back this season, and a loaded backfield, I can see the Packers not resigning Michael.
Knile Davis – $675,000 AAV (Average Annual Value) – Davis is another athlete that could be in Pittsburgh. He is currently with the Kansas City Chiefs but in 2016 played musical chairs and went from team to team. The Chiefs have a loaded backfield as well, so expect Davis to not return in 2017.
It’s still way too early to see how everything is going to go down, but just know that this is just a wish list and players that I could realistically see coming to the Steel City. This team had what it took to make it all the way to the Championship game with a roster that was not 100%. I give this team props and I am truly excited about the future. There are just a few missing pieces that need to be cleaned up before they have a chance to go all the way.
What are your thoughts? Are there any specific players you would want to see in a Steelers uniform? Let me know in the comments below.