The Pittsburgh Steelers entered this league year with 12 players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency, and another three players who would be restricted free agents. They ended up retaining five of those unrestricted free agents in addition to tendering all three of their restricted free agents.
Pittsburgh also added help from outside of the organization at running back, but suffered two free agency losses, one to another team and the other to retirement. The Steelers also released two players, while five of their unrestricted free agents remain unsigned.
The organization has been clear throughout recent weeks that the organization has essentially wrapped up all meaningful free agent activities. Perhaps there may be a modest addition or re-signing or two in the secondary between now and the draft, but now is a good time to take a look back and see where each position started at the beginning of the process and where it is now leading up to the draft.
Total Positional Figure: 5
Offseason additions: 1 (Reserve/Future Signing)
Offseason losses: 1
William Gay: William Gay has been the Steelers’ best cornerback since re-signing with the team two years ago. He has four interceptions returned for touchdowns in that span. But they shouldn’t have to count on him being an outside corner. They have no choice, because they simply0 don’t have any other options.
Cortez Allen: Truly, the cornerback position would look astronomically better if Cortez Allen could develop into the starting-caliber player they believed him to be two years ago. Two demotions and a trip to injured reserve means he’s starting from scratch.
Antwon Blake: Now that he’s signed his tender, it’s time to figure out where Antwon Blake fits into the defense. Is he an option to start, despite his height? His skill set lends itself to playing on the outside, which is where he plays in sub-packages.
B.W. Webb: It will be interesting to see how B.W. Webb fits into the picture, as he has a career arc not dissimilar to Blake’s, but has some other things in his favor, such as his height. Webb was claimed off waivers by the Steelers prior to the start of the regular season, so he barely got any playing time on defense because he didn’t know what he was doing. After going through an offseason, he should be able to compete for playing time.
Brice McCain: Still the only free agent the Steelers lost to another team, and likely the only, Brice McCain signed a fairly modest deal that Pittsburgh wasn’t willing to match, a decision that will be debated, no doubt. He emerged in the starting lineup last year and played reasonably well, but we’ll see if he replicates that performance in Miami.
Players Not Retained:
Ike Taylor: After 12 seasons with the Steelers, it looks like Ike Taylor is finally at the end of the line. Injuries have derailed him over the past couple of seasons after an ironman run of consecutive starts. His skills, particularly his long speed, have clearly diminished.
Kevin Fogg: Technically, Kevin Fogg is not a completely new addition. He was signed to the practice squad when Allen went on injured reserve and remained there through the final month of the season. Of course, depending on how the draft goes, he’ll probably have a hard time making the roster.
Notes: Obviously, the Steelers are banking on addressing this position in the draft, both high in the draft and possibly multiple times. Even a rookie starting is not out of the question. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if they manage to sing a veteran-minimum corner between now and the draft.