It certainly didn’t take long for that pass rusher market to dry up, as we near the dregs just three days into the new league year. That might be somewhat of an issue for the Pittsburgh Steelers, about whom many are uncertain if they even have one legitimate pass rushing threat, let alone two.
Of course, the Steelers did contribute to the drying up of that market, and I’m not necessarily talking about the re-signing of Arthur Moats to a three-year contract. Free agent Jason Worilds was to be one of the bigger mid-tier names on the list before he informed the team of his intentions to retire in order to pursue religious interests.
With most of the bigger names off the board, gone yesterday were some of the remaining fringe names, such as Akeem Ayers, Adrian Clayborn, and O’Brien Schofield, who each reached new deals with their new teams.
Brian Orakpo, meanwhile, remains in Tennessee tonight, as of the time of this writing, and there are suggestions that he won’t leave without a contract. (UPDATE: signed with Titans)
To be quite frank, outside of Derrick Morgan, (UPDATE: signed with Titans) there really aren’t many names left that either make any sense or would have any potential of providing any kind of meaningful upgrade.
Except for James Harrison.
The Steelers are not in the same position that they were last offseason, when they had Worilds and Jarvis Jones, with Moats as a swing option. They felt that they had their two starters, as well as depth.
One of those starters is already gone, and the other didn’t really do much to answer any of the pressing questions that he faced after his rookie season. Harrison was the only outside linebacker on the roster providing any answers, and that was after coming off the couch.
The Steelers are not in the same position, and neither is Harrison. Harrison retired a year ago. This year, he’s not only determined to play one more season, but energized to do so based on last year’s success, and I’m betting he believes he can do even better.
I believe he can do better too—provided that the Steelers protect him from himself. Healthwise, he’s probably in as good of shape as he has been while with Pittsburgh since 2010 or so, considering all of the issues that he had to close out his tenure.
His reps were limited for the past two seasons, for different reasons, which is a plus. But with the market drying out, the Steelers should have him on speed dial to sign him, probably before the draft, with an eye toward limiting him during the offseason.
The Steelers will undoubtedly be drafting another pass rusher high in the draft, and they will probably be looking for a strong-side rusher, since Jones doesn’t fit the mold to hold the edge with brute force against the run.
In the meantime, Harrison could move to that strong-side position, where he did log a small handful of snaps before taking a more prominent role in the lineup last season. With Moats there to spell Jones and a rookie to spell Harrison, I can’t help but feel that’s the best, most pragmatic option left for the Steelers.