The 2014 season saw the Pittsburgh Steelers on the rise, finishing with an 11-5 record and a division title following two straight seasons of missing the playoffs with 8-8 records. They finished off the regular season with four straight victories, but suffered a disappointing Wildcard round loss against the Ravens without their star running back.
Nobody is saying that the Steelers, however, are a finished product. Not even the Super Bowl champion is a finished product after a season concludes, because every team undergoes a series of changes throughout the offseason via free agency, retirement, and the draft, in addition to a myriad of other factors.
Pittsburgh is certainly no different, of course, and they are expected to see a number of new faces in the starting lineup for the third straight season. Today, however, marks the first day in which teams can actually speak to some of those new faces—at least, those who remain under contract for three more days.
In fact, the Steelers already made their first free agent signing yesterday, signing quarterback Taj Boyd, who was drafted by the New York Jets last season, but released. He is now one of four quarterbacks for the team on the roster.
But it goes without saying that the Steelers aren’t done talking to other players. As of today, we are now in ‘legal tampering season’, as the league in recent years has allowed teams to speak with pending free agents three days prior to the start of free agency, short of actually formally working out a contract.
Last year, the Steelers did work out a free agent deal with Mike Mitchell on the first day of free agency, though there is no way of knowing if the team spoke to him or his representation in the days leading up to the start of the new league year.
It’s likely, of course, that the front office uses this period to speak with a myriad of players, doing their due diligence with inquiring phone calls, even though we rarely become privy to this information. This is especially true in recent years, given that they may actually have some money to spend on players coming from other teams.
So who might the Steelers be calling within the next few days, beyond their own free agents, of course? The message came from the top that the front office needs to address the coverage and the pass rush, which means outside linebackers and cornerbacks.
With Jason Worilds likely not coming back, no doubt the team will be contacting players such as Brandon Graham, Pernell McPhee, Jabaal Sheard, and Derrick Morgan. The Steelers reportedly have shown interest in cornerback Cary Williams, who was recently released, but really, there’s no shortage of cornerbacks that they can target for depth, as they did last offseason.
Of course, don’t expect the Steelers to go after the top tier free agents in either category, many of whom are likely to stay where they are. The Steelers are no strangers to that process, spending so much on retaining their own that they’re left bargain hunting in April. But it doesn’t hurt to get that phone going.