Pittsburgh Steelers March Scouting Report
The Steelers have been much more active in the off season than normal. The trade of WR Antonio Brown was necessary and expected. He ended up going to the Raiders for a third and fifth round draft pick after a trade with the Bills reportedly fell apart due to Brown saying he would not report. The return for Brown was underwhelming, albeit given the situation not overly surprising. The trade of OT Marcus Gilbert to the Cardinals for a sixth round pick was more unexpected. Perhaps in hindsight that should not have been the case. Gilbert has missed significant time in the last two seasons due to injury and suspension. OT Chris Hubbard cashed in with the Browns last off season after excelling in Gilbert's place. OT Matt Feiler returns, he was more than adequate on the right side when pressed into service last season. OT Jerald Hawkins returns from injury although tackle depth is an issue.
The gamble of RB LeVeon Bell to not sign the final long term deal offered by the Steelers or his franchise tender did not work out. Bell ended up signing a free agent deal with the Jets that by all reports was less than the Steelers offered last July. He clearly did not reset the free agent market for running backs which was his stated goal. RB James Conner and RB Jaylen Samuels were more than adequate replacements at a much reduced price. A dynamic pass catching back could be targeted on the third day of the draft.
The signings of CB Steven Nelson, ILB Mark Barron and WR Donte Moncrief provide at least depth in major areas of need. Nelson was the prized signing. He is fully expected to start opposite of CB Joe Haden with former first round CB Artie Burns being pushed down the depth chart or off the roster. The aging Barron provides at least a stopgap as an off the ball coverage linebacker even though his skills have slipped in recent years. Montcrief is the wild card. A former first round pick, he has struggled in the last two years at least in part due to playing with QB Scott Tolzein, QB Jacoby Brissett, QB Blake Bortles and QB Cody Kessler. Obviously playing with QB Ben Roethlisberger can't hurt. The real key to replacing Brown on the current roster will be the development of WR James Washington. Washington's improvement in the final quarter of the season provides some optimism. Of course there is no guarantee even the best free agent signing will work out. Last season's top free agent acquisition S Morgan Burnett is the perfect example. Burnett was released after just a single season in which he suffered through multiple injuries and struggled when on the field.
Next months report will focus on previewing the draft from a Steelers perspective.
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Sunday, September 13th, 2020
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