The 2021 NFL season is right around the corner, but there is still time for general managers to improve their rosters. Rosters have been trimmed from 90 to 53 in a matter of weeks, and there are many big names that headline the list of cuts.
However, there have been several intriguing talents that seem to have fallen through the cracks. Today, we are going to highlight some of those players and determine whether or not they would be a good fit with the Steelers. This list will not include bigger named cuts, such as Tyrell Crosby, Matt Skura, Karl Joseph, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and many others. While all of those could make sense for the Steelers, they are more well-known commodities than the players we are discussing today.
Many, but not all, of the players mentioned below will be players that play a position the Steelers lack depth at. While positions like wide receiver and defensive line may not be considered positions of need for the Steelers, we will still look at every position and see if the Steelers could still get an upgrade from what they have. However, the primary focus will be on players at positions of need.
If you have any thoughts on who you would like the Steelers to sign, be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
1. Lamont Gaillard — OL
Cut by the Cincinnati Bengals during the cut-down process, Gaillard is an interior offensive lineman who was one of the top linemen in the SEC during his time at Georgia. Gaillard is scheme-versatile but is best suited for a zone-blocking scheme. His sloppy footwork is partially why he has struggled thus far into his young career, and there is no denying that he must improve in that area, but the toughness and mean streak that he plays with each week would make him an ideal fit for Adrian Klemm’s system.
2. Tariq Thompson — S
If this name sounds familiar to you, it should. I loved the tape that Thompson put out during his time at San Diego State, and he was one of my favorite day three draft sleepers this past spring. His combination of range and physicality makes him a perfect safety for today’s NFL. He still needs to take better tackling angles and play a little smarter, but his ability to play in the slot makes him valuable to the Steelers based on the current situation. The risk is little to nothing as a back-end-of-the-roster guy, and the potential reward down the line is exciting to think about.
3. Sheldrick Redwine — S
At the beginning of 2021, I would not have thought that the Browns would cut Sheldrick Redwine. However, the additions of Richard LeCounte and John Johnson have put Redwine out of a job. He has played 27 games in his young career, starting in 8 of them and recording 69 total tackles, 1 interception, and 2 passes defended. Redwine became a reliable contributor for the Browns defense, and I expect him to be the same for the team that signs him next. With the injury and release of Antoine Brooks, the Steelers are beginning to look thin at safety. Adding a player like Redwine would solidify the depth at that position.
4. Carson Green — OL
Green would likely be on the practice squad as opposed to the roster, but Dan Moore’s former teammate would be a solid addition as a future depth piece. Dan Moore was impressive in the preseason for the Steelers, but if you go back to Texas A&M’s 2020 tape, you could argue that Carson Green’s tape was better than Moore’s. Green may not be technically sound, but he is extremely physical and has the versatility to play either guard or tackle. With Zach Banner’s injury concerns, adding another guy who can play right tackle would not be a bad idea.
5. Roderick Johnson — OT
This was another somewhat unexpected cut, as Johnson had developed into a relatively solid lineman. Johnson played in twelve games in 2020, started in three, and only gave up one sack in 245 offensive snaps played. He came out of college as a long-armed, mobile lineman that could get to the second level in the run game. He has displayed that same ability on occasion in the pros, but the limited sample size makes it difficult to gauge how much he has truly grown in that area since his time at Florida State.
The inconsistent play of Chuckwuma Okorafor has many fans clamoring for Dan Moore to get the start, but Moore is still a work in process and would likely benefit from sitting on the bench for at least the first few games. Johnson is far from elite, and he is not necessarily who you want starting at left tackle full-time, but he could hold the fort for the first few weeks of the season if Okorafor is not up to the task and Moore is not ready yet. He would bring a little more stability to a position group that is anything but certain.
6. Steven Sims, Jr. — WR
Back to my draft crushes. Sims reminded me so much of Antonio Brown in college with his quickness in and out of cuts and explosiveness down the field. Sims has not had anywhere near the success that Brown enjoyed, but there is still a lot of potential here. After displaying a sure-handed, reliable version of himself in 2019, he struggled to secure the ball in 2020. I am not sure what changed with his game, but it was not an issue that I found concerning coming out of college. Receiver may not be a need, but Sims would benefit from a deep receiver room. He would also give Ray-Ray McCloud more competition for the lead returner role.
7. Ben Mason — FB
Sign T.J. today, cut Derek tomorrow, and sign Big Ben Mason the next day. Simple, right? I realize that this one is extremely unlikely, but if the Steelers wanted to save a little money, this would be an ideal way to go. Mason is an old-school fullback who plays with a nasty streak and isn’t afraid to do the dirty work. He also brings decent athleticism and a little versatility to the table. With Patrick Ricard already firm atop the depth chart, Baltimore had no room for their 2021 fifth round pick, who was the consensus number one fullback in this past draft. This one is definitely a long shot, but Big Ben Mason has Steelers written all over him.
8. Mac McCain III — CB
Here was what I had to say on McCain in my pre-draft defensive sleepers article.
McCain burst onto the scene as a freshman but tore his ACL the following season. Before that injury, he accounted for 8 interceptions and 16 passes defended. It took him a while to get back to his usual form, but he has fully recovered, as proven by his pro day numbers. McCain recorded a 4.45 in the 40, a 6.94 in the 3-cone drill. and a 35.5 inch vertical.
I see McCain as the FCS version of Jaycee Horn. He does a great job at pressing receivers at the line and rerouting them, but he has the loose hips and fluidity needed to play zone at a high level as well. He gets a bit grabby at times, but that is a teachable issue. McCain’s aggressive playing style combined with his solid athleticism makes him a prospect that is more than worth a late round flier. He has starter potential as an outside cornerback.
Just hours after the draft concluded, a report surfaced that the Steelers were going to sign McCain, but that turned out to be false.
Franklin Mac McCain, CB, North Carolina A&T reportedly singing with the Denver Broncos. I'd previously quoted others saying Pittsburgh Steelers, removed the Tweet as it was still getting shared & didn't want incorrect info out there. Apologies for that. #NFLDraft #NFLDraft2021— Bex_R (@Bex_R86) May 2, 2021
I do not know whether the Steelers actually had interest in him or if it was simply a false report, but either way, the Steelers may have another chance at him. McCain can play either inside or outside, but he is most experienced on the outside. Despite his size, that is where I think he fits best. His tenacity and aggressiveness make up for his lack of elite size, and his combination of speed and instincts would give Teryl Austin a lot to work with. He will probably end up on the Broncos’ practice squad, but if he clears waivers, I would love to see the Steelers give this guy a shot.
9. Sua Opeta — G
The Weber State product’s impressive combine performance in 2019 was not enough to get him drafted, but after two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, he has developed into a reliable backup. Opeta is a powerful guard who can move defenders in the run game. His technique has always been a little sloppy, but as a backup, I do not see it as a major concern. After cutting both Rashaad Coward and B.J. Finney, it is almost a guarantee that the Steelers will add somebody else who can play guard, whether that be via trade or free agency. I could see the Steelers making a signing of greater magnitude than this, but if they want to go the affordable route, Opeta would be a great choice.
10. Jimmy Moreland — CB
This one has begun to gain some buzz since the news broke that Washington was cutting Moreland. Moreland was an extremely productive college player, recording eighteen career interceptions and taking six of them to the house. He was expected to become a dangerous punt and kick returner in the NFL, but he has struggled to consistently make an impact in that area. Still, he would keep the pressure on Ray-Ray McCloud on special teams, and his ability to play nickel cornerback would be huge for a Steelers team that has been unable to fill the void left by Mike Hilton.
Other names of note:
Maurice French — WR
Sean Davis — S
Hakeem Butler — WR
Greg Stroman — CB
Isaiah Wright — WR
Antonio Hamilton — CB
Paris Ford — S
Kahlil McKenzie — DT
Derwin Gray — G
C.J. Marable — RB
Brock Wright — TE
Which players would you like to see the Steelers bring in? Do you think any of the players listed above would improve the Steelers’ roster? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!