Allow me to beg humble pardons preemptively, because here comes some brutal honesty from yours truly. It's a statement that has to be made, regardless of how unpopular it will undoubtedly be with a certain segment of the community.
Fantasy football has value, beyond it's entertainment and competitive benefits. At least it does for me.
One of the biggest benefits of my yearly participation in fantasy football reveals itself specifically during the free agency portion of every offseason. The simple truth is this; fantasy football forces me to watch more professional football, particularly teams outside of the Steelers AFC North division.
One of those teams that I have paid special attention to over the past couple of seasons due to my fantasy football involvement has been the Los Angeles Chargers. A unique development started to transpire during this time frame: I grew to respect the fundamentally sound overall game of Chargers starting inside linebacker Drue Tranquill.
I have written multiple articles already this offseason expressing my deep desire to see the Steelers address the inside linebacker position this offseason, both in free agency and the draft. For my money, inside linebacker should be offseason priority number one for the Steelers. I wrote about 5 of the top 7 free agent possibilities according to PFF in a recent article.
Drue Tranquill is most definitely a free agent possibility for the Steelers, even if he didn't make the aforementioned top 7 list, or warrant mention in my wishlist article.
Tranquill may just be the best inside linebacker that precious few NFL football fans know anything about. Tranquill had a breakout season in 2022, good enough to warrant serious Pro Bowl consideration. He was credited with 146 combined tackles, 5 QB sacks, and an interception. Tranquill was easily the defensive leader and tone setter for the Chargers defense.
At 6'2" and 235 lbs, to go along with a 4.57 forty, Tranquill possesses the size and speed to make plays all over the field. He showcased admirable aggressiveness towards the fray, and competent physicality at the point of attack. Where there is a will there is a way, unlike a certain starting inside linebacker for the Steelers in recent seasons. Tranquill has the selfish mindset desiring to be involved in every tackle, and to do so with hostile intentions. It's been awhile since Steelers Nation could make that claim about a Steelers interior linebacker.
I am truly excited about this offseason for the Steelers, starting with free agency. It's the first opportunity with Omar Khan in charge, and to see where his style differs from predecessor Kevin Colbert. I am most excited to see Khan's assistant Andy Weidl's influence up close and personal, seeing how his fingerprints were all over Super Bowl runner up Philadelphia Eagles dominant roster last season.
Nobody really knows how the Steelers decision makers will approach free agency, in what promises to be a rather fluid situation. The Steelers may decide to focus their resources on retaining their own, particularly on the defensive side of the football.
If the Steelers chose to go that route, coupled with their expressed desire to extend Alex Highsmith this offseason, then a mid level free agent upgrade at inside linebacker seems likely for the Steelers, along with an early Day 2 selection at the position. The Steelers have an effective safety tandem in Terrell Edmunds and Damontae Kazee about to hit the open market, and I have to believe that the Steelers are interested in retaining both players if possible.
You can only fill so many holes in one offseason, as there is only so much money to go around under the salary cap parameters. Therefore, even with my own urgent pleas for the Steelers to go big or go home at the inside linebacker position, the Steelers may decide that an upgrade is an upgrade, and choose to spread the roster building wealth around the defense, on all three levels.
If so, I believe that would make Drue Tranquill an attractive option for the Steelers. The Steelers could sign Tranquill, retain Robert Spillane on a fair market deal, and draft a top prospect at the position early on Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft. Then they would have the long on potential but short on experience Mark Robinson available to round out their depth at the position.
While this would fall short of my ideal scenario, it does seem like a realistic possibility for a young rebuilding franchise with plenty of holes needing filled on the defensive side of the roster, where improved depth and youth are desperately needed.