The Pittsburgh Steelers are not in a good place heading into the 2021 offseason. They are bellied up to the salary cap, and their list of free agents is long. When it comes to best, and worst, case scenarios, you have to wonder what the team would look like if they happen to lose more free agents than they keep.
In fact, I wanted to take a look at the offensive depth if the Steelers were to lose all of their free agents on that side of the ball.
Let’s take a look at the free agents first:
Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA)
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
RB James Conner
OT Alejandro Villanueva
G/T Matt Feiler
OT Zach Banner
G Danny Isidora
OT Jerald Hawkins
QB Joshua Dobbs
Restricted Free Agents (RFA)
WR Ray-Ray McCloud
Exclusive Rights Free Agents (ERFA)
Okay, with those names now out there, this exercise is based on what the Steelers’ depth would look like on the offensive side of the ball if they lost all of their free agents. To make this simpler, and also how rare it is, I decided to say all RFA and ERFA will be retained one way or another. Therefore, the only players who will truly be lost are the UFAs.
Let’s look at the Steelers depth chart, by position (Note: I focused on players who had physical reps in the regular season or playoffs in 2020. Those who were never on the active roster are held off this list.):
Benny Snell Jr.
When you look at the above lists, you can’t help but see just how decimated the Steelers’ offensive line could be if they lost all of their free agents. Only having one offensive tackle with game experience under contract, two guards and one center is a recipe for disaster.
Looking at it this way, without improvements it won’t matter who is at quarterback in 2021...they won’t be able to protect them, or open up holes for the running game.
However, anyone who thinks Kevin Colbert, Art Rooney II and Mike Tomlin are going to be heading into a regular season without upgrades, or plans, for key positions, are fooling themselves. You can expect the team to bring back players like Banner, and possibly Feiler, to help give the line some necessary depth.
But the offensive line isn’t the only position which needs addressing in the offseason. The skill positions of running back and wide receiver certainly need attention with the expected losses of Conner and Smith-Schuster.
A lot of what they can, or cannot, do this offseason will hinge on the return of Ben Roethlisberger, as well as the pending salary cap number for the 2021 season. With those unknowns, it doesn’t leave fans with a warm, fuzzy feeling about the future of the team. But if you look at the above list, if they are able to keep just a few of those free agents, the outlook should be another dominant defense next season.
If the Steelers are able to re-sign Banner for cheap, and find a suitable center, you would see an offensive line which would look something like this:
LT - Okorafor
LG - Dotson
C - FA/Draft Pick
RG - DeCastro
RT - Banner
While this doesn’t depict a dominant offensive line, it certainly is good enough to protect the quarterback and open up some holes in the running game.
If the Steelers were to lose all their offensive UFAs, would it be the end of this generation of Steelers offense? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.