While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.
No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.
With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.
In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the pessimistic side of the coin.
Question: Do the Steelers have any players signed to future contracts who can compete for a roster spot?
When it comes to players who are signed to futures contracts, there is typically a pretty good reason for them being in that situation, and it goes without saying that only a very small percentage of them end up making the roster.
There are some, every once in a while. The Steelers, for example, got their punter last year via this method, although with a caveat, as they also signed a veteran punter who for extenuating circumstances was unable to ever report.
Even though the Steelers improved to 11-5 a year ago and won their division, however, it could still fairly be said that they are not a deep team, an indictment that applies nearly across the board, especially at this time of year. One would think that this gives some of these futures players a better than normal chance of making the roster.
But adding in the fact that the team is in the process of creating cap space gives a pretty good indication that they intend to fill as many of the voids in their roster as possible with draft picks and free agent signings, rather than fringe hopefuls who are more likely than not just warm bodies for camp practice.
Among the more likely candidates is perhaps last year’s seventh-round draft pick, Rob Blanchflower, who was released after the preseason but spent his rookie season on the practice squad. But the Steelers appear to be taking a good look at the tight end position in this upcoming draft.
There are also a number of safeties on the futures list, but will there be any room? The Steelers already had six of them on the roster last year, and they could be looking to draft another. Wide receiver C.J. Goodwin has, for some reason or other, continued to stick around, but until we know why exactly that is, it’s hard to say what his chances are of making it to the 53-man roster.
Who among the longshots on futures contracts do you think is most likely to make the roster this year, if anybody? Perhaps one of the outside linebackers?