After posting an 11-5 record and advancing to the AFC Championship game in 2016, the Pittsburgh Steelers are well-positioned to once again make a deep postseason run in 2017. If Pittsburgh hopes to win its seventh Super Bowl championship next year, sticking to the following blueprint would be a decent start:
Dominate the draft
For years, the Steelers have used high draft picks to fill obvious holes. With the draft’s 30th pick and an incredibly well-rounded roster, the Steelers are in a good position to simply take the best player available.
Now, this isn’t to say that Pittsburgh doesn’t have pressing needs. In no particular order, the Steelers would be wise to grab another running back, receiver, and cornerback. For the third time since 2013, however, look for the Steelers to potentially draft another edge rusher, such as Alabama’s Tim Williams, Missouri’s Charles Harris or Michigan’s Taco Charlton.
Add depth in free agency
The Steelers never make much noise in free agency, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this season. With that said, the Steelers have some (some) money to throw around this offseason, so it would make sense to add another mid-level player similar to Mike Mitchell or Ladarius Green to the mix.
Adding a cornerback could be prudent, as a solid plug-and-play veteran would help further solidify a Pittsburgh secondary that played 11 good games before being dismantled by Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who grew up 20 minutes from Pittsburgh in Aliquippa and played at Pitt, looks like a sure cap casualty and would be worth a look. Of course, the Steelers must do their homework on whatever injury hampered Revis throughout the 2016 season.
Spend money in-house
The Steelers have just a few weeks left to decide if they want to slap the franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell, who accrued nearly 2,000 all-purpose yards in just 12 games last season. If Pittsburgh applies the tag, they are still permitted to work out a long-term deal with Bell until Week 1 kickoff. Retaining Bell’s services will not be cheap, but he is one of the best running backs in the NFL and only 24 years-old.
Signing Antonio Brown to a much-deserved long-term deal will be even more expensive. It is reasonable to expect Brown to command at least $14 million annually, though it wouldn’t be surprising for him to ask for more. The Steelers have the means to keep Bell and Brown, but it will be interesting to see how negotiations play out.
Aside from the superstars, the Steelers have a number of starters and glue players in need of extensions. James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons played well enough last season to command higher-than-average salaries on the open market, but both parties have expressed interest in returning to the Steelers. Look for Harrison to sign for one more year and Timmons to sign for two or three.
Backup quarterback Landry Jones, rotational lineman Ricardo Matthews, special teams dynamo Shamarko Thomas and backup running back DeAngelo Williams are also set to hit the open market, though none of these players would likely finding starting roles waiting for them on other teams. The departures of Williams, Matthews and Jones would have a major impact on Pittsburgh’s draft and free agent plans.