The offseason is officially underway, and with it comes a chance for me to answer some of our loyal followers' questions in the weekly mailbag article. In this article I dive into topics like the NFL Draft, as well as free agency. You might be reading this wondering how to get your question in the next mailbag article, well, it is easy. Follow BTSC on Twitter (@btsteelcurtain) and check regularly for the request tweet for questions. When you see that, fire away.
Without further ado, time to get to those Pittsburgh Steelers questions...
From: Heather (@SteelersGal86)
Question: Ramon Foster or Kelvin Beachum? Who do you feel they must keep?
Answer: Some are thinking the team will try and bring both back, and while that may happen, I don't feel it is a very realistic proposition. For this answer I look at a couple things. The depth chart and the cost to re-sign the player. Left tackles make top dollar on the open market, and that will include recently injured Kelvin Beachum. Despite injuring his ACL last season, Beachum will be on the top of many team's wish lists.
As for Foster, although he will certainly get looks, he won't drive nearly the price tag of Beachum on the open market. With that said, you look at the depth at the position, and suddenly a Beachum departure might not be the worst idea ever, as Alejandro Villanueva has filled in nicely and is the perfect build and size for a left tackle. Behind Foster is another story. Cody Wallace and Chris Hubbard would assume the guard duties, and those two don't scream confidence heading into 2016.
In my opinion, the team will talk with Beachum, see his price, but ultimately bring back Foster and let Beachum walk. The team will head into training camp with Villanueva and Foster representing the left side of the team's offensive line.
From: Sam Beeghley (@sbeeghley)
Question: If you were to name three prospects that would A.) be available B.) fit our scheme in Round 1, who would they be?
Answer: To be able to give you three players would be like me walking into a dark room with a knife, and randomly stabbing around. Rather than try and lead you down an unknown path, I think it is more appropriate to talk about positions they will address, and a few names to keep an eye on at each position. I think the team will ultimately look defensive line, safety and cornerback -- possibly in that order -- in this year's draft. A lot of their "needs" will also depend on free agency, so only time will tell in that regard.
Along the defensive line, I really like Vernon Butler from Louisiana Tech. Butler is an athletic nose guard/tackle who would be a great fit for the Steelers' new style of defense with anywhere from 2 to 4 down linemen and a variety of defensive backs behind them. The question remains if Butler will even be an option as he could be off the board before Pittsburgh picks at No. 25.
At cornerback, I think Eli Apple and Kendall Fuller could be available in Round 1, but is this the position the Steelers want to target in Round 1 with a very deep cornerback draft class? In my opinion, a first round draft pick needs to play (i.e. - Bud Dupree), and they better be sure one of these players can contribute in their rookie season.
Finally, safety might be their biggest area of need heading into 2016, and there are a few names I really like. Darian Thompson has been a named talked about a lot, and rightfully so, but I also have been warming up to Vonn Bell of Ohio State. Both are extremely athletic and play the ball well, not to mention how they are talented enough to play early in their rookie season.
Only time will tell, but this draft fits well with the Steelers' team needs.
From: Tre Atkinson (@TreAtkinson)
Question: Can you see the Steelers giving both David DeCastro and Le'Veon Bell new contracts this offseason?
Answer: Simple answer to this question is 'Yes'. I do think they will give DeCastro a new contract, or extension like they did with Cameron Heyward in 2015, and Bell is clearly a must-sign player before he enters his final year of his rookie contract.
However, there are other players who need to be dealt with as well, and the most important is Antonio Brown. Brown is due for a huge pay day, and cap hit, in 2016 and the Steelers could sign him to a new contract to help free up needed cap space to make the aforementioned moves.
If the Steelers could sign Brown, Bell and DeCastro to long-term contracts heading into 2016, talk about a comfortable feeling with the core of the offense locked up for the long-term in the Steel City.