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20 predictions for the rest of the Steelers offseason

With the Combine underway and free agency approaching, the Steelers already-busy offseason is set to get a lot more interesting.

NFL: AFC Divisional-Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Much like Oprah Winfrey during the holiday season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been busy spreading materialistic joy and cheer, singing it loud for all to hear. First, they Steelers slapped the franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell, keeping the star running back under contract for at least one more season while simultaneously buying themselves a few months to hash out a long-term extension. Hours later, the team announced Antonio Brown’s record-setting contract, the highest for a receiver in NFL history.

James Harrison is set to return next season on a two-year deal and will likely continue signing two-year extensions until the sun transforms into a red giant, destroying all of humanity. After that, Harrison will colonize a different planet and establish a new race of weightlifting metahumans.

The Steelers also placed a fourth-round tender on Ross Cockrell, which allows them to match any offer he receives on the open market or receive a corresponding draft pick if he jumps ship.

So, yeah, the Steelers front office has been busy. However, with free agency and the draft approaching, the remainder of the offseason promises to be a busy one. For this reason, I’m offering 20 predictions about the remainder of the offseason, ranging from supposable to implausible. Let’s start with Pittsburgh’s free agents:

1 and 2: Landry Jones and Jarvis Jones sign contracts elsewhere...

...and pull in a pretty good haul. The latter of the Joneses is an easy call: he’s a former first-round pick, and he plays arguably the second-most important position on the field. The sacks haven't been there for Jones, but he had a ton of near-sacks and quarterback hits, and he played very well against the run. If his durability concerns don’t totally scare some potential suitors away, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get some offers in the $5-6 million per year range. Aside from Nick Perry and Jabal Sheard (the latter of whom played mostly 4-3 end in 2016), Jones may actually be the top pass rusher on the market. It’s THAT thin.

Landry Jones isn’t assured of a long-term starting job elsewhere, but he could potentially serve as a suitable bridge for a non-contender. At worst, he is an experienced backup.

3. Lawrence Timmons, unfortunately, leaves town, too

Timmons, who was Mike Tomlin’s first-ever draft pick, simply played too well last season to accept a sizable hometown discount. He will test the market to gauge interest, which I suspect he will find.

4. Markus Wheaton will seek a fresh start

But not in Pittsburgh. Wheaton could theoretically push for the No. 2 spot next season, but it would be tough to imagine him besting Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers or even a draft pick during training camp. He will have a chance to resurrect his once-promising career on another team, possibly the Cardinals or Buccaneers.

5. The Steelers sign Bell to a long-term deal, (6.) setting the market for running backs in the process

As we mentioned earlier, the Steelers are reportedly engaged in heavy talks with Bell’s agents on a long-term deal that will almost certainly be among the most lucrative in league history. I think they get it done before July 9th (the deadline to negotiate with tagged players), keeping arguably the most dangerous triumvirate in the NFL together for the remainder of Ben Roethlisberger’s career and leaving Pittsburgh’s championship window wide open.

7. Regardless of whether or not they sign Bell long term, they will invest in another running back

Free agency is an option here, but the draft is more likely, probably somewhere in the fourth round. Clemson’s Wayne Gallman is similar to Bell in terms of physical build and skillset, but Pitt’s James Connor might be too perfect of a fit to pass up.

8. They will probably invest in a receiver, too

Again, the draft seems like to most probable route. I can’t imagine the Steelers would use their first-round pick on a receiver, unless Clemson’s Mike Williams falls (and if he would, that should raise numerous red flags, in which case you shouldn’t want him, anyway), but there are some excellent mid-round options, including USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster and Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook. As for free agency...

9. The Steelers will sign a mid-level free agent

Brace yourselves and please finish the list before insulting me in the comments, thank you:

10. It might be worth taking a look at Brandon Marshall

Just a quick little peak, you never know. If Marshall would agree to a one-year deal, they Steelers should enlist themselves a mercenary, regardless of his price. Marshall asked for a release so that he could sign with a contender. The Steelers will have interest. If Marshall sticks to his own plan, his likeliest destinations are Pittsburgh, New England or Baltimore.

11. The Steelers will think long and hard about signing Darrelle Revis

This, of course, will be dependent on how his pending felony charges for allegedly assaulting two dudes in the always-shady South Side of Pittsburgh (seriously I live in Pittsburgh never go over there) turn out. Even so, the Steelers are always in need of secondary help and Revis is one year removed from his last Pro Bowl nod. If another team tenders Cockrell and the Steelers fail to match, I would not be shocked to see Revis in a Steelers uniform in Week 1.

12. Okay, okay. I’m sorry.

I predict that articles bearing my name will receive even fewer clicks moving forward.

13. A realistic free agent who fits the following criteria: price range, scheme fit and immediate starter potential:

Micah Hyde, formerly of the Packers. Hyde can play slot corner and safety and is a very dangerous punt returner, like a poor man’s Tyrann Mathieu. He’s only 26, which should drive his price up slightly, but he is a solid investment.

14. More free agency: Unexciting moves the Steelers will make

Backup defensive lineman, backup safety capable of playing both positions, veteran quarterback, and backup offensive tackle for depth.

15. Back to the draft: Pittsburgh trades out of the first round

The Steelers are in a weird spot right now. They have talent at every position, but are not particularly deep in any particular area. Free agency will also dictate their plans. If Timmons signs elsewhere, for example, Pittsburgh’s most pressing need likely becomes middle linebacker. In this case, unless Alabama’s Reuben Foster tumbles on draft day, it would be more prudent for Pittsburgh to trade back rather than reaching for a guy like Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan or Florida’s Jarrad Davis.

16. But, if they keep that pick...

I like Haason Reddick from Temple.

17. With some of their later picks, though...

...the Steelers should target some local guys. Namely, Ejuan Price from Pitt, who has a frame like a baby James Harrison.

The bend is just uncanny.

18. The Steelers will keep William Gay...

...but they will get more creative with how they use him. A switch to safety might be prudent, but the bottom line is that they will have to see less of him at cornerback if they want to further solidify the secondary. His productivity really declined as the year dragged on.

19. The Steelers will also keep Ladarius Green

Had Green played a full season for Pittsburgh in 2016, it is more than likely that he would have lived up to his $5 million salary. He played well in his limited action last season, providing Roethlisberger with an enormous, wildly-athletic security blanket. The Steelers would save some money by cutting Green later this offseason, but if his head checks out, there is no reason to serve him walking papers.

20. Nobody will get in trouble!

For the first time since Week 17 of the 2014-15 NFL season, Roethlisberger, Bell, Brown and Bryant will all take the field together. God only knows how long it will last.