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Should the Steelers look to free agency to fill voids in 2017?

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The Steelers are not a team who likes to dip their toes into free agency waters, but could 2017 be the year they try and add a big name player to help them get over the hump?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Washington Redskins Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a very smart, and calculated organization. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone when it comes to the amount of success the team has had, even just under Mike Tomlin.

A large aspect of their success has been their usage, or lack thereof, in free agency. Many fans bemoan the team’s unwillingness to pay big money for prospects, but their acquisitions in free agency are typically well-timed and pay dividends.

Just in the past few seasons, the team will go out and pay for a free agent in a position of need. They did so by bringing in Mike Mitchell from the Carolina Panthers, and also with Ladarius Green from the San Diego Chargers.

So, with the 2017 offseason upon us, how likely are the Steelers to follow their plan of one big-name free agent, and other ancillary free agents, like Ricardo Mathews and Darrius Heyward-Bey, who might not get the ink of Mitchell or Green, but play their role on the team to a ‘T’.

Recently, ESPN predicted a free agent acquisition which would make send for all 32 NFL teams, and Field Yates saw the Steelers acquiring wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who last played for the Washington Redskins.

See what Yates had to say about his decision:

Pierre Garcon, WR | Position rank: 8th

The Steelers have one of the top wide receivers in the NFL, but consistency from a No. 2 receiver is something they have lacked in recent years. Martavis Bryant has the straight-line speed to terrify opposing defenses, but he is coming off a season-long suspension, so how much faith should the Steelers have that he can contribute for a full season in 2017? Another option at the No. 2 spot was Sammie Coates, but while he led the league by averaging 20.7 yards per catch, he also led the league in drop rate, dropping 25.0 percent of the passes thrown his way. Garcon would add the needed consistency. He dropped just one of the 80 catchable passes thrown his way in 2016 for Washington, and he would be the perfect No. 2 opposite Antonio Brown.

The potential acquisition of a player like Garcon makes sense, especially with the unknown factor of Martavis Bryant, but this is just one position which the Steelers could potentially target.

Of all the team needs, the question remains whether the Steeler are just a player or two away from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender, even moreso than the 2016 team who made it to the AFC Championship game.

The immediate team needs which could be filled with a free agent would likely be, in no particular order:

  • Cornerback
  • OLB/Pass Rusher
  • Wide Receiver
  • Inside Linebacker
  • Defensive Line
  • Running Back

The needs are there, but as stated earlier, the Steelers rarely make more than one big move in free agency.

So, who could they add at these positions? Yates suggests Garcon at wide receiver, and his pass catching skills would be a tremendous asset opposite Antonio Brown, but I’ll take a stab at the other positions too.

Cornerback

Stephon Gilmore, CB, Buffalo Bills

Gilmore is a cornerback who would bring physicality, experience and versatility to a position which could use another player, or two, to help turn the defensive secondary into one ot be reckoned with.

OLB

Jabaal Sheard, DE, New England Patriots

Maybe not the greatest pass rusher on the market, but would be able to fit in just fine with the Steelers, even with their tendency to play more sub packages than their standard 3-4 defense. Very well could be out of their price range.

ILB

Sean Spence, ILB, Tennessee Titans

Spence left the Steelers after 2015, and a return in 2017 would be just fine with me. He knows the system, and a combination of he and Vince Williams would be able to fill in for Lawrence Timmons, if he isn’t re-signed.

Defensive Line

Lawrence Guy, DT, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have some big holes to fill on their defensive line, and Guy might be the player who gets to test free agency. A player like guy, who isn’t a 3-down player like Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward, would be solid against the run and help solidify the team’s run defense and provide valuable depth.

Running Back

Rex Burkhead, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

If the thought of a big, bruising running back to compliment Le’Veon Bell doesn’t suit your fancy, then Burkhead certainly would be a good fit. His pass catching skills and shifty nature would be a great one-two punch combined with Bell.

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Even when the Steelers make a move in free agency, it isn’t usually the high priced variety. They find the player who fits their system, has tremendous upside and is the right price. There are plenty of other free agents at each of the above positions who would be a good fit, but are out of the Steelers’ price range. The best bang-for-your-buck player is who the team typically thrives on.

So, will the team make a play for one of these positions, and if so, what prospect will be the guy they bring in?