Steelers 2016 Offseason Outlook

By: Zach Metkler, The Burgh Blog Writer

With another season in the books and the 2016 season officially underway as of March 9th at 4:00 PM, much can be said about the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers. We saw a team that was able to overcome much adversity with suspensions and key, untimely injuries. We saw a defense that was much improved from previous seasons. We saw a high-powered offense that continued to dominate the NFL for yet another year. Even with all of the positives that can be had from the season, another year in Pittsburgh without adding another Lombardi Trophy is another year where the ultimate goal was not attained. The Steelers have work to do this offseason if they hope to continue to contend for a Super Bowl championship.

Offseason Needs

  1. Cornerback
  2. Safety
  3. Defensive Line
  4. Edge-Rusher
  5. Offensive Line Depth
  6. Middle Linebacker
  7. Quarterback Depth

Free Agency Outlook

Through the first few days of free agency, the Steelers have stuck to the status quo that fans are so familiar with seeing from the team: sign in-house free agents, look for bargain players that can help the team, and wait for the teams with huge money to spend to over pay players out of desperation and remain unsuccessful ball clubs (here’s looking at you, Jacksonville). Here are a list of the players the Steelers have signed thus far:

  • Re-signed CB William Gay to a 3 yr/$7.5M deal
  • Re-signed WR Darrius Heyward-Bey to a 3 yr/$3.8M deal
  • Re-signed S Robert Golden to a 3 yr/$5M deal
  • Re-signed LG Ramon Foster to a 3 yr/$9.6M deal
  • Signed TE Ladarius Green to a 4 yr/$20M deal

Rather than diving into a free agency signing frenzy, the Steelers made very team friendly deals to retain and sign players that each play important roles the team and impact the direction they might make in the draft. Re-signing starters Gay and Foster means that the secondary will retain it’s leader and 2015 defensive captain and the offensive line will retain a starter who did not miss an offensive snap all season. DHB and Golden give the Steelers two special-teams studs and crucial depth that will be important moving forward. But even with these signings, the biggest signing might just be ex-Chargers TE Ladarius Green. Once believed to be Antonio Gates’ replacement in San Diego, the 25-year-old vertical threat helps soften the blow of the retirement of longtime Steelers TE Heath Miller. No one expects Green to replace the reliability and consistency of Miller, but at 6’6″, 240 lbs., he definitely adds another dimension to an already stellar offense. Green and Jesse James should make an extremely serviceable TE core for the foreseeable future and almost completely reduces the need for the team to draft a TE in this years draft. Continuing into the offseason, the Steelers still have impending free agents, many of which are not expected to re-sign:

  • S Will Allen
  • LT Kelvin Beachum
  • CB Brandon Boykin
  • LB Terence Garvin
  • DE Clifton Geathers
  • QB Bruce Gradkowski
  • FB/H-Back/TE Will Johnson
  • C/G Doug Legursky
  • NT Steve McLendon
  • LB Sean Spence
  • NT/DE Cam Thomas
  • RB Jordan Todman
  • QB Michael Vick

Realistically, most of the players listed can be had at a very cheap price. McLendon, Garvin, and Spence have attracted little to no attention from teams and all could be re-signed for relatively cheap prices. Allen, Boykin, and Thomas will unlikely re-sign and have already met with other teams in contract talks. If there is one player the Steelers must try to find a way to re-sign, it is Beachum. The former 7th round draft pick has defied all odds and has become one of the best young LT’s in the league. Off to another strong start, he was sidelined for the season after tearing his ACL. This can impact his overall value on the market because of health concerns, which could play to the Steelers benefit. The team has already indicated that they would like to sign him to a 1 year deal for next season. If they can retain him, it would be a big step for the team and trying to tie down a long-term contract.

NFL Draft Outlook

As previously mentioned, the biggest offseason need for the team is addressing the secondary and this could be the year the team finally uses a first round pick to select a corner. With the re-signing of Gay, the Steelers have 4 corners in the mix: Gay, Senquez Golson, Doran Grant, and Ross Cockrell. Adding a top-tier corner into the mix who could develop into a future #1 corner would be a very welcome addition. Luckily for the Steelers, there are a number of corners who would provide the team with great value and talent. The same can be said for the defensive line. This year’s draft is extremely deep with defensive line talent. With the probable loss of McLendon and Cam Thomas and only having two truly reliable defensive linemen in Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, it is important to address the clear lack of depth the team has across the the line. Depending on what happens in free agency is going to largely play a part of what direction the team takes during the Draft.

Steelers Draft Picks:
-Round 1 (25)
-Round 2 (58)
-Round 3 (89)
-Round 4 (123)
-Round 6 (220) (Compensatory Pick)
-Round 7 (229)
-Round 7 (246)

Potential Names to Remember:

-Eli Apple, Ohio State
-Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
-Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
-William Jackson III, Houston
-Harlan Miller, Louisiana Tech

-Darian Thompson, Boise State
-Tyvis Powell, Ohio State
-Vonn Bell, Ohio State
-Jeremy Cash, Duke
-Jayron Kearse, Clemson
-Su’a Cravens (S/LB), USC

Defensive Line:
-Jarran Reed, Alabama
-Kenny Clark, UCLA
-A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
-Andrew Billings, Baylor
-Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
-Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
-Sheldon Day, Notre Dame
-Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech

-Leonard Floyd, Georgia
-Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
-Carl Lawson, Auburn
-Kevin Dodd, Clemson
-Carl Nassib, Penn State
-Shaq Lawson, Clemson

Offensive Line:
-Jack Conklin, T, Michigan State
-Taylor Decker, T, Ohio State
-Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State
-Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford

Middle Linebacker:
-Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
-Nick Vigil, Utah State

-Cody Kessler, USC
-Vernon Adams, Oregon
-Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
-Kevin Hogan, Stanford

As the draft approaches, it will be interesting to see what names begin to become connected to the Steelers as prospects begin their Pro Days and the team has a number of directions they can go. The Steelers are in an excellent position to make a run at a Super Bowl title next season and if all goes according to plan, the Steelers will be bringing a 7th Lombardi Trophy back to the Steel City.

For future updates, follow me on Twitter at @TheBurghBlog_ZM and follow The Burgh Blog at @TheBurghBlog

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