If the Pittsburgh Steelers have hopes of playing football in January, they will need the Cleveland Browns to do something they have not done since 2007 - end the season with a winning record. With the odds of that happening perhaps less likely than the current spread of +6-points would suggest for their game against the Baltimore Ravens, the prospect of playoff football looks bleak for Pittsburgh in 2018.
Should their game against the Cincinnati Bengals be their final one of the year, it will also be the last time several players will wear a Steelers uniform. With 16 players set to be unrestricted free agents in 2019, there is a good chance that Sunday will be the final opportunity for fans to see several key names suit up for the home team.
With the exception of Ben Roethlisberger, no current player on the roster has been with Pittsburgh longer than Ramon Foster, but that run looks like it will soon be coming to an end. Despite being set to turn 33-years old in less than two weeks time, Foster is still playing at a very high level and would appear to have a number of years left in him. Although discussions about an extension were had during the offseason, the two sides could not agree terms.
Considering Foster told Mark Kaboly of the Athletic “They are going to have to pay the (expletive) out of me’ to be here next year,” it seems safe to assume he will not be offering a hometown discount. However, with a capable B.J. Finney waiting in the wings as significantly cheaper option, it would be fair to suggest the Steelers might be better served long term going in a different direction anyway.
While Tyson Alualu has been a solid presence behind Stephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward, his second year in Pittsburgh has seen something of a decline from last season. His playing time has reduce by around 15-percent and he has no sacks on the season after recording four the year before. Alualu had the ninth highest cap hit on the roster in 2018, but with options like L.T. Walton, Javon Hargrave and even Daniel McCullers showing progress this year, it should be expected he will be allowed to leave this off-season.
A strong argument could have been made weeks ago that Jordan Berry deserved to lose his job and the Steelers considered replacing him earlier in the season. Set to become a free agent in March, it is inexplicable to think he will see a new contract before the start of free agency. While a new punter may not be that high on the wish list for many fans this offseason, those who have seen the damage rookie Michael Dickson has done for the Seattle Seahawks this year might understand the real value of a decent punter and the importance of having one.
Although Jesse James and Anthony Chickillo have been dependable backups and even serviceable starters when injuries elsewhere have dictated it, both should be considered questionable to return in 2019. Unlikely to be offered starters money on the open market, the Steelers could be better served financially allowed them to hit free agency to establish their value, rather trying to sign them before the new league year begins. Still expected to command more than the league minimum, James in particular could find a team with cap room to spare willing to offer more than Pittsburgh can afford next year.
Hopefully for all concerned, the Steelers will get at least one more game at Heinz Field in 2018 to enable the fans to give these names a proper goodbye.