The Steelers seem to be in a weird position this offseason. They just lost Le’Veon Bell to free agency and are on the cusp of losing Antonio Brown, one of the leagues elite talents at wide receiver.
What was once a terrifying juggernaut of the “triple B’s” is on the verge of becoming a meek squad in an up-and-coming AFC North. They seemingly have a replacement for Bell in the form of James Connor, so that addresses the running back position. But in order to stay competitive, the Steelers must address needs at wide receiver (uhh wut, Austyn?), secondary, and middle linebacker, with the latter being the biggest priority.
Mike Tomlin, though wildly successful by NFL coaching standards, seems to be on a leash that continues to get shorter as fans grow tireless for a championship. It is almost a yearly occurrence that the Steelers have their inevitable rough stretch of games that has fans calling for Tomlin’s head.
You only have to go back to last year to see the run of games that resulted in critical losses to Denver, Los Angeles (Chargers) and Oakland to see when fans were restless with Tomlin’s team. These losses ultimately caused the Steelers a playoff berth in 2018.
Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert will have to make some moves to save this team, and Tomlin’s job. Lucky for Steeler’s fans, I’ve compiled a list of things the Steelers need to accomplish to remain a moderately successful franchise this year.
Trade Antonio Brown ASAP.
“Nice advice, Austyn. They’re already on it.”
Yes, I know, but as of typing this the Pittsburgh Steelers’ plan of trading Antonio Brown to the Buffalo Bills fell through. For clarity, the trade is rumoured to have not gone through because Antonio Brown refused to play for the Bills if traded there. The unfortunate thing about this trade falling through is that the value of Antonio Brown continues to plummet the longer a trade doesn’t go through. If you’re wondering how I think it’s dropping, the reason is that teams are not chomping at the bit to make the deal go through. In short, the Steelers are desperate to trade him away.
Since AB will refuse to suit up for the Steelers, teams know that if they hold off on trading for him, they can get “Mr. Big Chest” (Antonio Brown for the layperson) for a mid-round pick. To get an elite WR for a mid-round pick is every team’s dream and the Steelers’ nightmare. Even though the trade with Buffalo fell through, the Steelers should jump at the opportunity of a trade before teams fill their WR needs in free agency next Wednesday.
Extend Joe Haden’s contract
A guy who was once one of the best at his position, Joe Haden is candidate number one for a restructure. He is set to make nearly $12 million on the Steelers as of now, and they need to work on an extension to make that number lower for this year.
Haden, 30, is coming off a decent season where he had one forced fumble and two interceptions. You need to look beyond the numbers for pricing cornerbacks because often times they take away the receiver and, thus, don’t get the ball thrown their way.
All that being said, Joe Haden is still a good cornerback, but he will need to take a pay cut this year if the Steelers should extend him. Having just a good cornerback on the books for top 10 cornerback money is a little too rich for the Steelers, who only have ~ $5 million to spend in free agency this offseason. If they can extend Haden, they can push back some of his money due this year to free up that cap space, while also holding on to aging, yet productive cornerback a little longer.
Sign a Safety in the talented Free agency pool
There is a plethora of talent in the Safety class of free agents, it’s not even funny. Though the Steelers took a 1st round talent in Terrell Edmunds in last year’s draft, the Steelers still need to address a secondary that has been wildly inconsistent for years.
Names that the Steelers could realistically target are guys like: Eric Weddle, Darian Stewart, Glover Quinn, or Kenny Vaccarro.
These are all free agents who won’t be looking for big contract extensions that the Steelers cannot afford, yet can play at a high level. Acquiring a safety for the Steelers will help add to the league’s 6th ranked overall defence that struggled in the air.
Draft devin bush, LB, Michigan
Ever since the unfortunate loss of Ryan Shazier, the Steelers have had a whole on defence that hasn’t been fixed. Shazier was their top guy in the middle of the field who could cover sideline to sideline. Replacing him is no easy task, but the Steelers do the best they can, taking the No. 2 middle linebacker in this class.
Devin Bush has the speed and ability to cover and defend the run. During his time in Michigan, he proved to be the centrepiece of a stout defence, and he will fit right in with the Steelers.
And if Ryan Shazier can ever suit up again for the Steel Curtain? Oh boy, would that be a sight to see.
Draft Mecole Hardman in the 2nd round
I know what you’re thinking: They already have Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster, and James Washington – why do they need another WR?
Let me explain, the Steelers have to trade Antonio Brown for reasons mentioned earlier. Yes, Juju looks poised to take over the top wide receiver role in Pittsburgh, but they need another player who can take the top off of opposing teams’ secondary.
A guy like Mecole Hardman will complement Juju because teams won’t be able to double Juju without leaving the speedy Mecole Hardman in iso with the opposite cornerback.
Mecole Hardman isn’t a guy who will wow you with his production at Georgia as he had less than 60 catches in two years. He is an under-the-radar guy in regards to his production because there were so many weapons at Georgia, and too many mouths to feed. He will certainly be there for the Steelers in the 2nd round to snatch up. Hardman has the ability to return kicks and punts which we’ve seen Pittsburgh use “Mr. Big Chest” for in years past.
We’ve seen the Steelers succeed in drafting WRs and developing them into their true potential, Hardman will be no different.
Pittsburgh is still in a position to squeeze a few years out of Big Ben if they can play their cards right. If the Steelers can cross these off their checklist, they will be in great shape to battle for the top spot of the AFC North against a talented Ravens club, and an up-and-coming Browns team. As for the Bengals, well, that will be saved for another article.
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