The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team that doesn’t usually make many moves, even during the off-season. But only one week before the start of the regular season? Forget about it! But as we all know, that’s exactly what they’ve just done right before their Week 1 game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Fans of the team already know the players involved, but what they might not realize is just how much the team has improved over the course of a few days. Let’s take a closer look at each one:
TE Vance McDonald
While not exactly the next coming of Heath Miller, McDonald has size and speed that no other players on the current roster possess. Jesse James and Xavier Grimble are talented in their own ways, but McDonald is more like a combination of the two. McDonald’s only major question mark is his consistency in catching the football. That could prove to be an issue, but a change of scenery and working with one of the league’s top quarterbacks might be just what the doctor ordered for McDonald’s career.
Widely viewed as the main offensive weakness heading into the season, tight end now looks like it can be checked off the list.
CB Joe Haden
The biggest pick-up for the Steelers, in my opinion, is Haden. There are doubters who don’t think he still has the Pro Bowl capabilities evident earlier in his career with Cleveland. But when you look at who the Steelers might have gone into the season with as a starting cornerback—Ross Cockrell or Coty Sensabaugh—Haden is a huge upgrade, even if he’s only 75-percent.
The main weakness almost everyone cited when talking about the Steelers’ defense was cornerback. With Artie Burns and Haden as your two starting outside corners, that’s quite a substantial improvement.
S J.J. Wilcox
While the addition of Wilcox certainly doesn’t have as big an impact as the previous two players, he does give the team experienced depth and versatility. Wilcox played a ton of football for the Dallas Cowboys during his first four seasons in the NFL. He’ll likely be used as a hybrid linebacker/safety/cornerback in specific sub packages in Pittsburgh.
But in the event that Mike Mitchell or Sean Davis should go down injured, a huge question mark previously was who might step in. Robert Golden has been less than impressive, so the heavy-hitting Wilcox certainly fits the bill.
With all that said, it’s hard to believe that the Steelers improved their roster on both sides of the football—in some ways dramatically—just a week before the first game of the 2017 regular season.
I analyze these acquisitions in further detail in the podcast in the player above. So give this 13-minute show a listen!