With the 2018 season over in disappointment, the Steelers are sitting at home and are left to wonder what could have been. With an epic second half of the season collapse, the Steelers missed the playoffs and the drama that has pervaded throughout the locker room has been nothing short of toxic. It very well may cause them to move on from key elements of their super bowl hopes, and with it, this team fades further from their goal of a super bowl. With Ben Roethlisberger nearing the end of his career, how can they maximize their window? Here it is, a full offseason plan.
There are lots of tough decisions here of who to let go and who to actually keep, so this was probably my toughest section to do, honestly.
RB Le’Veon Bell
I just don’t know how you can bring him back at this point unless it is on some type of super discounted deal. Bell will test the market and get paid far outside of what the Steelers would want to pay him overall. He is as good as gone.
OG Ramon Foster
If he can be got at a reasonable price, I still believe Foster is more than worth it to bring back. Foster is one of the better guards in the NFL and still keeps the core in tact together. His locker room presence alone is a big reason to keep him around.
OL Matt Feiler
Feiler was a rock star as he filled in for Marcus GIlbert and likely earned a multi-year extension by doing so. He can play inside or at RT, but regardless, he is incredibly valuable as depth.
OL BJ Finney
Finney is the heir to the Ramon Foster throne, and if he does happen to leave, Finney would be a fantastic replacement. He is straight up solid and would start for most teams in this league. Re-sign, obviously.
LS Kameron Canaday
Canaday was solid, and his name was never said, bring him back.
DL L.T. Walton
Walton didn’t get a hat for most of the season, and it is really murky as to what his role on this team is at this point. When he did play, he did nothing of note, so there is little to no incentive to bring him back.
ILB L.J. Fort
Fort was a key cog on the defense this year and deserves a multi-year extension. So, he should be extended, as he proved to be the best ILB on this team as the season progressed. With Fort giving the Steelers more security in the middle of the field, it should be a premium to keep him.
DL Tyson Alualu
The Steelers will need defensive lineman depth, and will likely have to address it through the draft, but Alualu is a great depth piece and spot starter. This is a pretty easy bring back.
P Jordan Berry
He is extremely mediocre, but got better towards the end of the year. Bring in competition and let him compete.
OLB Anthony Chickillo
Incredibly meh and nothing special, but the Steelers are so needy at OLB depth wise that Chickillo almost has to be brought back. I wouldn’t bring him back otherwise, but it is certainly somewhat essential to bring him back.
CB Coty Sensabaugh
Sensabaugh was a fantastic fill-in after the woes of CB2 in the early season with the collapse of Artie Burns, and he should be brought back as a fantastic depth piece. Sensabaugh graded out incredibly well for PFF, and is a valuable piece to have there.
S Nat Berhe
He is coming off of a torn pectoral and is nothing more than a special teams guy, there is no reason to bring him back here.
TE Xavier Grimble
A solid 3rd TE who needs to learn how to carry a football, but regardless, he is a really, really good blocker and that is extremely desirable as a third TE.
TE Jesse James
The obvious answer to bring back the Outlaw. He is the peak of solid and can catch and block extremely well. The question is did he price himself out of Pittsburgh? I would bring him back at the right price, but I am not overpaying.
CB Mike Hilton
Hilton is probably priority #1 in the offseason. With this team being bare at CB outside of him and Joe Haden, Hilton getting an extension is a natural step. He didn’t have a great end to the season, but he has more than earned that extension.
WR Justin Hunter
Coming off of a season-ending injury and I just do not see the reason to bring him back. He is mediocre at best and this is a deep WR draft. He can be replaced.
WR Eli Rogers
Rogers was fantastic in the limited games he played this year, and the Steelers, if they have the opportunity, should keep him in Pittsburgh as well. He adds another weapon to the dynamic offense and really opened up the playbook.
OLB Keion Adams
Adams is still developing and a solid depth guy, he should be brought back to see what he can be in Year 3.
RB Stevan Ridley
Fumbleitis alert, Ridley is nothing special and honestly was meh most of the year. If it was up to me, he wouldn’t be back.
ILB Ryan Shazier
No idea here. But his locker room presence and positive influence is enough for me. Bring him back.
WR Derrius Heyward-Bey
Great veteran presence, but honestly, kinda useless otherwise. He was not even that good of a gunner this year. I would let him walk, but if he wants to be a coach, he can come right on aboard.
Other Contracts and Moves
Davis has straight up earned this extension, man. He had a few lackadaisical plays, but with another offseason at single-high under his belt, I anticipate that Davis will begin to really come into his own and become even more of a contributor, especially with ball skills starting to show up more.
Hargrave finally broke out this year and when he saw snaps, he made more than the most of them. Hargrave is naturally a 4-3 3 technique, but he has embraced his role and has begun to get 5 technique reps and has wrecked the line with them. He is integral on the line and is a great player to have going forward. Get him an extension.
Morgan Burnett and Jon Bostic
These two guys were brought in but, honestly, as the rest of the plan unfolds, they just do not have a place on the team. Releasing them would give us some much needed cap space, and thus, they are natural moves.
Negotiations are already underway with Big Ben to come back for beyond 2019, and we will take that into account as well. Roethlisberger’s extension would free up some more cap space as well.
Trade Antonio Brown
I can’t believe I have to type this out, but we have to do this. So, the Steelers trade him to the 49ers for the 49ers’ 2nd, 4th, and a future 4th. This is a realistic looking deal, as there is no way the 2nd overall is actually in play, but in a deep class, this is a super nice haul.
Rescind the 5th year option and re-negotiate to a cheaper deal.
The Steelers, facing a closing window, should theoretically take a bit more of a proactive approach here in free agency, just for logic sake.
Sign ILB Jordan Hicks
You wanted a big play, well, here it is. Hicks has unfortunately dealt with some injuries, but he is an elite talent at ILB and likely won’t command all that much because of his injuries. Hicks is that low key type of signing the Steelers will make. This has high upside and low risk, so it is a natural fit.
Sign IDL Henry Anderson
The Jets did not use Anderson all that much this season, but he logged an impressive 48 pressures out of that defense. He is an underrated player and will not command all that much money and can be an excellent player on that interior line, and it frees up a draft pick, too.
Sign CB Pierre Desir
Desir broke out finally in 2018 and was used heavily in the cover 2 and press man heavy scheme of Indianapolis, which meshes about as well as you could wish for it to do in Pittsburgh. This is a fantastic signing either as a starter or a great depth piece.
Sign RB Mike Davis
This move is so underappreciated, but just go check out a short highlight film of Davis’ from this season and you will see an underrated back who can be an excellent rotational piece and do it all. Davis is a huge upgrade from Ridley and creates a great trio of RBs.
A whole 7-Round mock draft that is streamlined with the AB picks. Let’s go.
Round 1: CB Byron Murphy, Washington
The Steelers get a scheme versatile player and probably the best CB in the draft. Murphy, Desir, and Hilton create a great trio of future CBs after Joe Haden is gone, but for now, they are a lethal core of CBs that any team would die to have. Murphy has physicality and ball skills, and likely starts from Day 1.
Round 2 (SF): WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
The best player in Mobile becomes a Steeler. Samuel has legitimate pro bowl potential and would take all the pressure you could ever want off of JuJu Smith-Schuster. As a dynamic receiver, Samuel would be a big play machine. And this is highly beneficial to James Washington.
Round 2: EDGE Christian Miller, Alabama
The Steelers can focus on getting a pass rusher and dealing with some depth there with ILB more shored up than before. Miller has an incredible ceiling but is still polished enough to start from Day 1. He likely won’t, but by midseason, Bud Dupree should see the bench.
Round 3: ILB Terrill Hanks, New Mexico State
Vince Williams is great, but his deal is not too friendly and he likely will be a cap causality shortly. L.J. Fort is already 29 and could be on the decline anytime for all we know. Hanks is a young, athletic former safety that has insane coverage skills and speed for the ILB position. He can develop for a few years and make a lethal duo with Hicks down the line.
Round 4 (SF): TE Keenan Brown, Texas State
We assume here that Jesse James simply gets outpriced and we cannot retain him. Even if we are able to keep him, Brown is a dual-threat TE that can move and block really well. He is TE2 now with future TE1 potential. If Vance McDonald ever gets hurt, Brown can fill in extremely well.
Round 4: S Malik Gant, Marshall
Gant can play anywhere a DB could want to play but outside CB. He is technically raw, but he has more than enough instincts to be a dimebacker from Day 1, and as he fills his frame out into Year 2, he can become a legit do it all Box safety or even a fluid single-high.
Round 5: WR Penny Hart, Georgia State
What is the issue with fully filling out this WR room? Hart is a little stick of dynamite that could make the roster due to his ability to play slot and contribute. He is an ideal 6th WR as he can take over for DHB’s gunner abilities too, as he was that at Georgia State. In the future, he can become more than just that.
Round 6: IOL Hjalte Froholdt, Arkansas
Mike Munchak might be gone, but Shaun Sarrett is still here! So, we give him a chance to really develop the interior of this line with a project in Froholdt. If he sits for a few years, Froholdt can become a pro bowl level OG if he pans out completely. He is a high-upside pick all day.
Round 7: P Tyler Newsome, Notre Dame
You know this is such a Steelers move, it just might happen. With just about every other position filled out, the Steelers draft Jordan Berry’s replacement, because Newsome is a stud.