I recently shared a three part series about Le’Veon Bell, as well as an offseason primer, so with all that work out of the way I think it is about time that I share a complete mock of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason.
I am not going to go into specifics with contracts, and cap savings, and cap specifics, this exercise is to just share a general impression of how I believe the team will attack the coming months.HERE WE GO STEELERS NATION!!!!
Bottom Line: I think we can all agree that the Safety play left a lot to be desired at the end of the season, and I believe the Steelers are going to see a big overhaul on the defensive side of the ball, especially with the way Art Rooney II and Kevin Colbert have been rightfully critical of the defense last year. Also, I think the team could use a new injection of players on the various Special Teams units.
- 5th Year Option Decision
Bottom Line: After a lot of deliberation, I believe the team will exercise Bud Dupree’s option, hoping for a breakout campaign. Dupree was asked to drop into coverage a lot last year, mostly because of the way the defense was being run, but I believe they should let him pin his ears back, and press the issue off the edge. What is more important is the OLB Coach and whichever Pass Rushing Guru he works with this offseason needs to help him develop an inside move, so he is not stuck with just trying to run around the OT’s. I also am very intrigued by our 7th Round pick Keion Adams from Western Michigan. He has a lot of raw talent, and is just finishing a red-shirt type rookie season.
Contracts that are revised or players given extensions that are FA in 2019.
Bottom Line: McDonald is a matchup nightmare who was just coming into his own at the end of the year. I think it would be in the best interest of both parties to find a common ground and bring him back, especially with the rapport he and Ben Roethlisberger were building. Giving Vincenzo a short-term extension for some stability after all the upheaval with the loss of Ryan Shazier makes some sense, not a break the bank type deal, but one that he deserves after a solid season. Re-signing Walton to a deal is giving the defensive line a dependable and quality, player a chance to continue to develop and find a niche in a talented rotation.
Re-signed Free Agents
K-Chris Boswell (RFA)
OLB-Anthony Chickillo (RFA)
Bottom Line:The biggest debate of the offseason comes to an end, with a long term extension given to Le’Veon Bell. After hearing Kevin Colbert’s comments recently I genuinely believe they will get a deal done. I just hope it doesn’t hamstring the club’s ability to improve in other areas on the roster. I believe Boswell will get a long term deal before the deadline for teams to tender contracts to RFA’s. Chickillo is a quality special teams player, and rotational OLB who still has some growth potential, so he is deserving of a tender. Justin Hunter and Stevan Ridley are only re-signed to non guaranteed vet minimum type deals.
Outside Free Agent Additions
ILB-Derrick Johnson-Kansas City Chiefs
S-Bradley McDougald-Seattle Seahawks
DT-Mike Pennel-New York Jets
S/ST-Michael Thomas-Miami Dolphins
WR/KR/ST-Jeff Janis-Green Bay Packers
Bottom Line: After the Bell extension, the Steelers will only have enough cap space to troll the middle tier of free agency, which is where they usually come out with some underrated additions.
I know the mentioning of Derrick Johnson will elicit some negative responses because of his age (35), and him having had some injury issues in the last few years, but he still is a very smart, and reliable ILB who would have a calming and steadying force for the run defense next year. He also is a willing mentor which should foreshadow some things to come in the draft portion of this article. Short term deal without a ton of guaranteed money for Johnson.
Dexter McDougald has a lot of experience starting in the NFL, and really flourished for the Seahawks last year when he bagan the season as a sub package/third S type, who saved the Seahawks bacon come the end of the season, due to injuries to Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Will be a hard sign due to interest from the Seahawks wanting to resign him. Played the run very efficiently, and is a converted WR in college that shows he has some ball skills, an interchangeable S type that the Steelers seems to covet in the back end.
Mike Pennel was a rotational NT for the Jets last year, and really showed well in being able to two gap as a 0T(NT), and has enough athleticism to be able to scrape down the LOS and make a play or two in the backfield. Should be able to help rotate with Javon Hargrave on early downs, and allow him to play a better part as a pass rusher. Had some off the field issues previously that made the Packers sour on him even though he was one of their projected starters. Seems revitalized and cleaned his act up with a change of scenery last year.
Michael Thomas, no not the Physical WR from N.O., but rather Pro Football Focus’s Special Teams Player of the Year. He filled in admirably for an injured Reshad Jones in 2016, and flashed instincts and smarts as a third safety type who can help our Special Teams units get into a good place.
Jeff Janis, is a very talented and underappreciated asset that could never really crawl up a very talent laden Packers WR Depth Chart. Big, and very fast WR who can be very dangerous as a return man, and ST Gunner. Putting him in the building with our talented wideouts could bring the best out of him.
Pre-Draft Team Needs
S/LB Hybrid for nickel and dime packages
WR Depth/ Slot type?
2018 NFL Draft Selections
1st Round-Darius Leonard-LB-South Carolina State
Leonard is a big-time athlete who showed really well in his jump in competition at the Senior Bowl. I know a lot will be bashing me for taking a player from a lower level of college competition, but this guy is explosive, and has quick twitch fibers that Tomlin loves.
2nd Round-Hercules Mata’afa-DE/DT/OLB Washington State
Mata’afa was PAC-12 offensive coordinators worst nightmares for the last 2 years. Consistently lived in the backfield even though he was miscast as an interior DL, which shows the type of explosion and power he has in his build just by being able to dominate the way he did against such bigger OL. I think he could really flourish as a run defender in the team’s front as a 34 OLB, then shift inside as a nickel rusher to wreak more havoc in the QB’s face. Tremendous hand fighter. Would have went in the first round if he weren’t lacking in some measureables, like height.
3rd Round-Deontay Burnett-WR-USC
Burnett was Sam Darnold’s go to WR this past year. He is a dangerous weapon after the catch, and has an excellent grasp of how to get open with variances in his route running, and by being able to adjust his routes according to how DB’s are playing him. Has great playing speed, and I see some comparable undertones in his skill set to Antonio Brown when he came from Central Michigan.
5th Round (From SF)-Troy Fumagali-TE-Wisconsin
Fumagalli is an enormous Target at TE, who dealt with only having 9 fingers since a surgery when he as a child due to a problem that was not life threatening but very painful. Even without a tenth finger he may have the best set of hands amongst this TE class. He really can be a load to bring down after the catch, and coming from Wisconsin he knows how to run block. More of a chain mover, than a seam stretcher, but can be a bull for smaller DB’s to try and tackle. A quality TE to add to the room with Jesse James being a FA in 2019.
5th Round-Micah Kiser-ILB-Virginia
Kiser is a throwback style of thumper who is vastly underappreciated as an NFL prospect. He gets the best out of his athleticism, but it his diagnostic ability to react instantly that will give him a place on an NFL Roster. Can take on blocks and shed them adequately. Is a hard hitting ILB. Has enough speed to make tackles sideline to sideline. A real steal this late in the draft.
5th Round (Compensatory Pick Projection)-David Bright-G/T-Stanford
Bright is a Swiss army knife OL who played all along the OL at Stanford, except for C. He is a strong, and long armed OL who seeks to bury defenders when he gets the chance. Earned the nickname “Salty Dave” from his teammates because of his nasty playing demeanor. Very good short area puller, and is able to target defenders with ease at the second level. Was also used as a move TE, and H-Back in different formations, which could give him an in with the departure of Chris Hubbard.
6th Round (From NYG)-Heath Harding-S/CB-Miami (OH.)
*A bit of Draft news here...Bob Labriola stated on a Asked and Answered that due to the amount of playing time Ross Cockrell accrued with the Giants, the Steelers will actually gain a 6th Rounder, not a 7th as was originally thought.
Referred to as the “Mayor” by his teammates. Consistent presence in all aspects on and off the field. Was a Day 2 prospect coming into this year, but dealt with some injury issues as a Senior. I have a tremendous feeling about this guy because he is unafraid to come up in run support, and has excellent closing quickness as well as terrific feel for where and when the ball is coming. Played the majority of the time as a CB at Miami (OH.), but I could really see him flourish as a S in Pittsburgh. Have a very reliable source who says he is a very humble kid, and was willing to take younger players under his tutelage. It was a crime he didn’t get a invite to the NFL Combine.
7th Round-Darrel Williams-RB-LSU
Williams was a big time recruit out of High School that took a back seat to Derrius Guice at LSU, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t talented in his own right. Would be a good developmental prospect to add to the end of the RB roster. Runs with great power, and is one of the better pass protector’s in this year’s draft class. He also is a pretty reliable checkdown target out of the backfield. Showed pretty well at the Senior Bowl, and may be gone before the 7th Round.
This is Version 1 of my Offseason Predictions. I will try and update it as the offseason rolls along, and feel free to give me some feedback of what you liked, and didn’t like, on this approach to improving the Steelers roster.