Pittsburgh Steelers February Scouting Report
The 13-3 Steelers had their season end earlier than they had hoped or expected with a home playoff loss to the 10-6 Jaguars. Entering the off season the biggest fantasy question just like last year at this time is the status of unrestricted free agent RB LeVeon Bell. The remaining unrestricted free agents are not fantasy relevant. Backup OT Chris Hubbard and OLB Arthur Moats are probably the best on both sides of the ball. Hubbard played well spelling injured and suspended OT Marcus Gilbert. He is unlikely to be within the Steelers price range. Other unrestricted free agents include RB Stevan Ridley, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, WR Justin Hunter, NT Daniel McCullers, ILB Sean Spence, CB Greg Ducre and S Daimion Stafford. WR Eli Rogers, OLB Anthony Chickillo and PK Chris Boswell are the only remaining restricted free agents. Possible cap caualties include from most to least likely S JJ Wilcox, S Mike Mitchell, CB William Gay and TE Vance McDonald.
After losing ILB Lawrence Timmons and WR Markus Wheaton to free agency last year the Steelers did not get a compensatory pick because of the signings of DE Tyson Alualu and CB Coty Sensabaugh. Alualu was a valuable backup and Sensabaugh provided a solid presence especially during the time missed by CB Joe Haden to injury. The Steelers will have seven picks in the upcoming draft with none in the fourth round and a pair in the fifth round. The Steelers swapped their fourth rounder to the 49ers for McDonald and a fifth rounder. The sixth rounder was traded to the Browns for CB Justin Gilbert, traded back for WR Sammie Coates and then traded again to the Bucs for S JJ Wilcox. The conditional seventh rounder acquired from the Giants for CB Ross Cockrell was improved to a sixth rounder based on his meeting specified performance goals.
QB: Last off season QB Ben Roethlisberger seriously talked retirement. He must of had a good time last year because now he seems intent on playing three more seasons at least. Good news obviously. Adding another young quarterback a year after bringing in QB Josh Dobbs seems unlikely. QB Landry Jones remains the backup. An injury to Roethlisberger remains the worst case scenario for all the offensive skill position players.
RB: Bell would make approximately $15 million if tagged a year removed from making $12 million. After originally balking at signing a tender for the second straight season Bell has softened his stance. Expect him back one way or another. For cap purposes the Steelers desperately need him to agree to a long term deal. RB James Conner suffered a torn MCL in December. He should be fine. Bringing back Ridley is not the worst idea.
WR: Barring catastrophe WR Antonio Brown and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster should again be featured. There has reportedly been interest in WR Martavis Bryant around the league. Bryant will be a free agent after next season and is highly unlikely to resign. Depth after him is weak to non-existent. Rogers suffered a torn ACL in the playoff game. He lacked explosiveness even before the injury.
TE: McDonald is a possible cap casualty. Neither TE Jesse James nor TE Xavier Grimble are big play threats. McDonald also isn't for that matter. Using a high pick on a playmaker at tight end seems unlikely considering the needs on defense.
K: Boswell has been a revelation after signing as a street free agent after the start of the 2015 season. He will be back.
DEF/ST: The defense fell apart after the injury to ILB Ryan Shazier. His return remains highly questionable although his future prognosis has improved. Shazier was given a rousing ovation on Sunday afternoon when shown on the big screen while attending the Cavaliers vs. Spurs game. He does want to play again. Wilcox never fit in and Mitchell's play has deteriorated.The interior pass defense is a major issue. Improving the pass rush wouldn't hurt. The decision on whether to pick up the fifth year option of disappointing OLB Bud Dupree for 2019 will not be easy.
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