Been awhile, huh?
With roughly an hour to go before the official start of the 2015 NFL free agency period, I figured it was about time to check in with an update on our Pittsburgh Steelers. To say our team has some work to do would be an understatement. The offense was incredible last season while the defense, well, the defense needs nearly a complete overhaul. With brand new defensive coordinator Keith Butler set to take the reins this upcoming season, it would behoove the team to give the man some actual talent to work with.
Not surprisingly, the first major moves of the off-season revolve around the D. Veteran Brett Keisel was released yesterday, all but ensuring an end to his career in Black and Gold. While Da Beard was a solid contributor last year, he was once again lost to a season ending injury as his age make counting on him for a full season impossible. Keisel wants to continue playing and I’m sure he’ll find a home either with Pittsburgh West (Arizona) or Pittsburgh South (Tennessee) as we finally move on to rebuilding the defensive line.
The team also announced the re-signing of Arthur Moats and Matt Spaeth while tendering offers to Antwon Blake, Robert Golden, and Will Johnson. Spaeth, Golden and Johnson all fill specific roles: Spaeth is a nice blocking back-up TE, Golden contributes on special teams while Johnson is a decent enough fullback. The other two may or may not figure predominantly in the team’s future plans. With Brice McCain a free agent, Ike Taylor certainly gone, and Cortez Allen a huge question mark Blake could be seen as the team’s current nickelback. Meanwhile, with Jason Worilds set to hit the open market after not being tagged, Moats would be your current starting OLB opposite Jarvis Jones.
You know what that means right? This year’s first pick is destined to be… ANOTHER LINEBACKER!
I liked what I saw of Moats when he got playing time but I’m not sure he’s a bonafide starter. Then again, I’ve seen exactly bupkiss from Jones in his two years in Black and Gold yet the team seems to think he’s poised to break out in 2015. Or at least they hope he does. How sad is it that a team once known for its steady stream of fearsome pass-rushing linebackers has suddenly found itself with none?
Outside linebacker is but one item on an off-season shopping list that includes: cornerback, safety (unless the Steelers are really really convinced Shamarko Thomas is ready to step in when Troy Polamalu retires/gets cut), veteran wide receiver, back-up running back, and a starting defensive lineman. Some of those things will come cheaply: they can basically dumpster dive for RB or WR since they already have quality players there. Linebacker and corner not so much. The team is said to be interested in retaining Worilds but he’ll likely command a hefty salary as some dumb team will inevitably overpay him.
Several names have been thrown out as potential targets for the Steelers although I try not to waste my readers time with rumors and speculation. It’d be nice if the Steelers could make a run at local boy Darrelle Revis should the Patriots let him test free agency but with our salary cap situation I just don’t see the economics being feasible. Their targets would more likely be mid-tier guys like former Cleveland CB Buster Skrine or former Pitt star DE Jabaal Sheard (who’d move to OLB in our defense). One player I’d love to see us go after is Detroit DT Nick Fairley but I have a feeling he’d want the kind of money the team doesn’t have set aside for a defensive end.
Whatever the Steelers do, they have to do better than they did last season when they paid Mike Mitchell big money only to see him make more personal fouls than splash plays. Moats or McCain were probably the best free agent acquisitions last year which doesn’t say good things about the job Kevin Colbert did. Some of their needs will be surely be addressed in the draft but the defense simply has too many holes to fill them all with rookies. If they don’t plug at least a couple of them in the weeks to come, I have a bad feeling we’re in for a case of deja vu all over again in 2015.