If the season started today, the Steelers would have some depth issues. With only three outside linebackers under contract and another three set to become free agents (or in James Harrion's case, retire altogether), arguably the most important position on the Steelers defense has become it's most glaring hole. Needless to say, GM Kevin Colbert has concerns over the state of the roster.
"We are worried about it today, but I feel comfortable that we will be fine once we get to August," Colbert said according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Colbert hopes to address team needs by retaining current players, which could include the likes of Arthur Moats, Brice McCain and Antwan Blake, three players who contributed to the defense despite beginning the year strictly as reserve players. Even the 38-year old Harrison, who came out of retirement to help the Steelers last season, was able to emerge as a factor on a struggling defensive unit.
Colbert also expects the team to be active in free agency, acquiring young, but experienced depth players to fill out holes in the defense. Finally, the Steelers GM has spoken highly of the prospects in the upcoming draft, particular the class of pass rushers.
"Even looking ahead to the draft, that's probably one of the positions that is potentially strong," Colbert said. "And I say potentially because outside linebackers for the most part are projections. But right now there are a nice group of candidates for that position."
In fact, what the Steelers do in free agency may ultimately tip their hand with the direction they hope to go in the first round of the draft. If Pittsburgh retains both Moats and Jason Worilds or secures another outside linebacker in free agency, the team will probably end up taking a player to fill out the secondary with the No. 22 pick in the draft, such as Marcus Peters or Landon Collins, two star-caliber defensive backs linked to the Steelers in recent weeks by both Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN. Pittsburgh could also opt to use a high draft pick on a tight end, another position Colbert is uncertain about.
"Yeah, I'm a little concerned about the depth there," said Colbert. "Again, you want to have, as we referenced earlier, young depth. So that may include a young free agent. It may include a draft pick."
With Michael Palmer and Matt Spaeth set to become free agents, the Steelers are left with hometown favorite Heath Miller, who is arguably Ben Roethlisberger's biggest security blanket but has become a heavier blocker in recent years, and Rob Blanchflower, a seventh-round choice last season who by Colbert's own admission is more of a pass catcher than a blocker as the only tight ends on the roster. Jordan Cameron reportedly wants out of Cleveland and could be an attractive option for the Steelers, as could University of Minnesota All-American Maxx Williams.
Although the Steelers appear to have glaring depth issues, Colbert remains confident the team will have solutions in place by August to ensure another successful football season in Pittsburgh.