2016 Pittsburgh Steelers Offseason Positional Needs
The Pittsburgh Steelers followed up their AFC North title in 2014 with a Wild Card playoff berth as the No. 6 seed, and a Divisional Round loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos. A season that started with such promise for Pittsburgh—despite running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Martavis Bryant missing the beginning of the season to suspensions. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger still had enough offensive weapons to make due in their absences.
A common theme for Pittsburgh in 2015 was injuries. It sustained a crucial blow before the regular season even started when the NFL’s top center, Maurkice Pouncey, sustained a season-ending leg injury. From there is almost seemed as if another Steeler went down every week. The only question was just a matter of who it would be. Despite the injury-plagued season, the Steelers got by with their “next man up” mentality, and crept into the postseason. However, it wasn’t just injuries that stalled the what-could-have-been success. Lack of production played a key role as well—specifically in the defensive secondary. The recent announcement that tight end Heath Miller has retired ads the need for a replacement. The Steelers have Jesse James, but adding depth wouldn’t hurt.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top needs for the Steelers as we head into the offseason.
Moves were made in the 2015 draft in an attempt to rectify some issues and fill the voids of the departing Ike Taylor and future Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu. However, draft picks Senquez Golson and Doran Grant weren’t able to be contributors. Golson required shoulder surgery during the summer, and Grant was waived early on in the season. The Steelers did sign Grant to the practice squad shortly after, and he did eventually earn his spot on the 53-man roster, but his playing time was limited. Brandon Boykin was brought in via a trade with the Eagles, however, saw limited time early on and is a free agent. William Gay, arguably Pittsburgh’s most productive CB, is a free agent as well.
With Golson’s health already in question and Grant’s serviceability in question, the Steelers may find themselves looking to the draft again to shore up the backfield on defense.
The Steelers have struggled against the pass, and addressing the safety position will help to rectify those concerns. Mike Mitchell, aside for having a few years left on his contract, has proven that he is an asset to Pittsburgh. His counterpart, Will Allen, is pushing his mid-30’s and had age-defining moments last season. A replacement for Allen will be on Pittsburgh’s radar.
Pittsburgh’s other current safeties on the roster, Robert Golden and Shamarko Thomas, haven’t panned out quite the way the Steelers have hoped. Golden made a few starts, but would be better suited as a role player. Thomas just hasn’t lived up to any hype that may have surrounded him when coming to the team in 2013.
3. Tight end
The Steelers were in need of a tight end anyhow, but the retiring of Heath Miller has made the need even more imminent. Replacing Miller will not be easy; he has been a top tight end in the NFL since he was drafted in 2005. A rookie last season, Jesse James stepped in when his number was called upon, but wasn’t exactly lighting up the stat sheets.
The Steelers also have veteran Matt Spaeth, but the 32-year old only caught two passes in 2015.
4. Offensive Tackle
It has been reported that the Steelers will not pursue their option to resign 26-year old Kelvin Beachum—the starting left tackle for the previous three seasons. He did however tear his ACL six games into the 2015 season, leaving way for Alejandro Villanueva to tow the load for the rest of the way. Villanueva filled in admirably in Beachum’s absence, but may not be the long-term answer. There is also five-year veteran Mike Adams to consider, but the Steelers haven’t been impressed with his reliability—or lack thereof. The fact that he spent the entire 2015 season on the PUP has to be taken into consideration as well.
Whether the Steelers address these needs in the draft or free agency, they are positions that need to be addressed.
Chris Galiszewski is a staff writer for PFS covering the Pittsburgh Steelers. You can follow him on twitter @cgaliszewski.