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.
Position: Outside Linebacker
Total Positional Figure: 6
Offseason additions: 2 (1 Reserve/Future Signing)
Offseason losses: 1
Jarvis Jones: The Steelers are kind of counting on Jarvis Jones to be their top outside linebacker, and that is basically the problem. While his sophomore season was bogged down by injury, overall, he hasn’t convinced anybody that he could be the top guy. This will be a huge season for both Jones and the Steelers.
Arthur Moats: After starting his career off in Buffalo, Arthur Moats looks to have found a home in Pittsburgh, signing a modest three-year contract that pays him a tweener salary, in between that of a starter and a priority rotational player. Which of those two he ends up being will be determined.
James Harrison: The fact that the Steelers re-signed James Harrison is a statement about the condition of the outside linebacker unit on the roster. Fortunately for the team, Harrison continued to play at a high level last season, and even he admitted that he felt better than he thought he would at the end of the year. The question now will be—aside from his ultimate role—how much he can play before his body starts to break down.
Howard Jones: Howard Jones recovered a handful of loose balls during the preseason last year, and that was enough of an impact to give him a season on the practice squad. Has he learned how to be a linebacker since then?
Jason Worilds: One of only two free agency losses for the Steelers, Jason Worilds chose to retire from the sport altogether, but Pittsburgh acknowledged that they didn’t anticipate re-signing him anyway, noting their belief that he would command more money than they would be willing to pay. Based on the market this offseason, that is more than believable.
Shawn Lemon (Reserve/Future): Shawn Lemon flashed impressive pass-rushing potential and had a nose for knocking the ball loose while playing in Canada last year. Whether or not that translates at all in the NFL will be put to the test.
Shayon Green: Recently signed, Shayon Green went undrafted last year and was not on a roster at all. He battled through two torn ACLs during his college career. His workout numbers were impressive, which got him on the team. Now to see what he does with the opportunity.
Notes: The Steelers are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with the bottom three rushers on the depth chart. If even one of them turns into a player, then they’ve succeeded on that front. But of course the reality is that it’s the success or failure of the top three on this list that will impact the Steelers’ season. The team has been lacking a consistent pass rushing presence for a few seasons now, and this year doesn’t exactly have the feel to it of great change.