Pittsburgh Steelers February Scouting Report
Turmoil continues to swirl around the 9-6-1 Steelers after their collapse and failure to make the playoffs last season. The leadership of QB Ben Roethlisberger has been questioned by some former players including S Ryan Clark and WR Hines Ward. The leadership ability of HC Mike Tomlin has also been questioned in the media. Whatever the truth in general, blaming Roethlisberger or Tomlin for the WR Antonio Brown or RB LeVeon Bell situations seems disingenuous at best. Both Brown and Bell made their decisions. Bell for monetary reasons. Brown for reasons that no one but himself can fathom.
QB: Roethlisberger remains the franchise standard bearer. Expect QB Mason Rudolph to take over from QB Josh Dobbs as the primary backup. The hope remains that Rudolph can develop into the quarterback of the future.
RB: After some rumors that Bell could be transition tagged, GM Kevin Colbert clarified that he would not use that option. Bell will be allowed to leave as an unrestricted free agent. RB James Conner flashed top ability despite some inconsistency. RB Jaylen Samuels also showed his worth as the main backup. Adding a dynamic pass catching change of pace would not be the worst idea.
WR: What type of return can be expected for Brown? His skills strongly suggest a first rounder. His age, the lack of leverage for the Steelers given the public falling out and Brown having quit on his team at the end of last season will probably lead to less of a return. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster seems poised to take over as the main weapon in the passing game. Can last year's second rounder WR James Washington take a step forward? How the Steelers answer that question will have a major affect on the draft.
TE: The ability of TE Vance McDonald to stay on the field most of last season was a good sign. Backup TE Jesse James is an unrestricted free agent. His return is not out of the question. Some mock drafts in the first round have given the Steelers all around TE TJ Hockenson or playmaking TE Noah Fant both from Iowa. With major immediate needs at inside linebacker, cornerback and wide receiver this seems highly unlikely.
K: Can PK Chris Boswell bounce back after an abysmal season? No idea. The Steelers front office and coaching staff are on record as believing that he can. PK Matt McCrain is currently on the roster as competition. He got some time as an injury replacement as a rookie last season with the Cardinals, Raiders and Steelers.
DEF/ST: The resigning of backup DE Tyson Alualu makes CB Coty Sensabaugh the top remaining unrestricted free agent on the defense. Obviously that is not a very big deal. Sensabaugh could return on a short term deal as depth after he stepped in adequately for struggling CB Artie Burns. The failure of former first rounder Burns makes corner a position of major need. Replacing injured ILB Ryan Shazier is still probably the most pressing need on defense. ILB Devin White of LSU, ILB Mack Wilson of Alabama and ILB Devin Bush of Michigan would all have to be strongly considered if available with the 20th pick.
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