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2018 Remaining NFL Free Agents: Who’s left, should the Steelers need to add to their defense

BTSC examines the guys on defense who need jobs, and if they would be a possibility in Steel City.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

As stated in Part One, the free-agent bonanza in the NFL typically happens in March, but there are still valuable and viable options for the Steelers to enhance their already talented 2018 roster. Perhaps one of these men can help and, more importantly, fit this budget-conscious team.

BTSC previously examined the available players on offense that might be possibilities for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In some cases, they don’t have needs at the positions involved. In this second installment, we will examine the defensive side of the ball and whether or not they would be realistic and helpful options for the Black-and-gold. With the salary cap space always being an issue, we realize that not every player would be a possibility. But the following are the best at each position that free agency has to offer at this late juncture.

Defensive Line

Best Remaining: DT Johnathan Hankins - Indianapolis

Other Options: 4-3 DE Robert Ayers - Tampa Bay, DT Alan Branch - New England, 4-3 DE Ryan Davis - Buffalo, 3-4 DE Karl Klug - Tennessee, 4-3 DE Courtney Upshaw - Atlanta, 3-4 DE Quinton Dial - Green Bay

Tyson Alualu provided some very valuable depth along the defensive line last year. With Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave entrenched as starters and Alualu subbing now and then, the defensive line isn’t as high a priority to upgrade as other units. A guy like the 30-year old Klug (13 tackles, 1.5 sacks in 2017) would be a decent and inexpensive option, while Hankins (2.0 sacks in 2017) might be too pricey for his lack of production. The likelihood for either one is doubtful, as Pittsburgh could get that type of production out of a young player with upside like L.T. Walton or Lavon Hooks.

Outside Linebacker

Best Remaining: Connor Barwin - Los Angeles Rams

Other Options: Junior Galette - Washington, Tamba Hali - Kansas City, Ahmad Brooks - Green Bay, Lamarr Houston - Chicago

It wouldn’t be a terrible thing if the Steelers were to add depth at OLB. The situation is solid on one side with T.J. Watt, but Bud Dupree hasn’t exactly set the world on fire and he’s got a lot to prove in his fourth season. After Bud, there’s even more of a dropoff. Galette (20 tackles/three sacks) has had injuries and off-field problems and just isn’t worth it with his low production. Maybe a one-year contract for a veteran hand like Houston (five sacks) or Barwin (five sacks) could be helpful, but you do run the risk of them being too deep into the twilight of their careers, like Hali.

Inside Linebacker

Best Remaining: NaVorro Bowman - Oakland

Other Options: Brian Cushing - Houston, Lawrence Timmons - Miami

A lot of fans wish the Steelers would find the cap space to take a flyer on Bowman (80 tackles/one INT), since they didn’t definitively address their ILB deficiencies in the draft. However, he’s got a troubling injury history. The team may be content with just bringing in Jon Bostic and having a healthy Tyler Matakevich. Will that be enough to help a position that was severely lacking after Ryan Shazier went down? That seems to be the most pressing concern. Timmons (58 tackles) is still a possibility at the veteran-minimum, that seems as likely a scenario as any. Steelers Nation has been split on that possibility though.

Cornerback

Best Remaining: Bashaud Breeland - Washington

Other Options: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - New York Giants, Jeremy Lane - Seattle, Kayvon Webster - Los Angeles Rams, Delvin Breaux - New Orleans

Carolina considered Breeland too damaged and nullified their three-year deal for $24 million. The Steelers would probably steer clear of the fifth-year corner for that reason and his price tag as well. The Steelers have talent and questions with their current group of corners, but they’re going to ride Joe Haden and try to develop Artie Burns more. Cam Sutton and Mike Hilton have shown great promise too. A younger player like Lane could contribute, but showed little last year with the Seahawks. Meanwhile, the veteran DRC (No interceptions in 2017) is showing decline and nearing his career climax. The Steelers will probably not pursue any corners in the late preseason.

Safety

Best Remaining: Eric Reid - San Francisco

Other Options: Kenny Vaccaro - New Orleans, Tre Boston - Los Angeles Chargers, Tyvon Branch - Arizona, Mike Mitchell - Pittsburgh, T.J. Ward - Tampa Bay

This is the most talented position group remaining, with Reid and Vaccaro topping the list. But the Steelers really addressed safety during the off-season/draft by adding Morgan Burnett, Nat Behre, Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen. With Sean Davis and Malik Golden already in the fold, there isn’t really a reason to add here.

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Will the Steelers make any more moves or merely work with what they’ve got? Stick with BTSC for all of the up-to-date offseason news.