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: 9
Offseason additions: 4 (4 Reserve/Future Signings)
Offseason losses: 0
Troy Polamalu: It goes without saying that this first name on the list is tentative at best, as the Steelers are widely believed to part ways with Troy Polamalu, with the preference that he chooses to retire of his own volition in due time.
Mike Mitchell: After playing through a groin injury during his first year with the team, Mike Mitchell hopes to have the free agent impact that many thought he should have had last year. He spent a lot of the season playing center field rather than being placed in a position to make plays, which could change this year, especially if there are changes in the starting lineup.
Shamarko Thomas: Assuming Polamalu is gone, Shamarko Thomas is the top candidate to enter the starting lineup. Entering his third season, he battled hamstring injuries last year and only saw two snaps on defense, but has, at least, shown well during the preseason.
Robert Golden: Already a proven special teams player, Robert Golden may be asked to take a more prominent role in the defense, perhaps as the top backup safety if Polamalu is released and no other moves are made.
Ross Ventrone: Another special teamer, Ross Ventrone hasn’t played much on defense during his career. He is certainly on the short side, but that doesn’t mean he can’t earn a role, especially if there is a lot of shakeup at safety over this offseason.
Players Not Retained:
Will Allen: Although this could certainly change—a topic that I have written about previously—Will Allen remains unsigned. Realistically, he is probably the last of the Steelers’ remaining free agents who might rejoin the team. He has been a reliable fill-in on defense during his five-year tenure with the team.
Jordan Dangerfield: A hard-hitting safety with decent size, Jordan Dangerfield made an early impression in the offseason and the preseason, but faded late. He spent time on the practice squad during the year, and was an early futures signing.
Alden Darby: Alden Darby has played all over the place in the secondary, but the Steelers seem to want to try him as a traditional safety.
Isaiah Lewis: Isaiah Lewis had a good training camp last season with the Bengals, but lost out in a numbers game. He and Dangerfield may be the early favorites to potentially advance from this group.
Ian Wild: The futures safety with the best size.
Notes: With Polamalu expected to be gone, the secondary will certainly be entering a new era. The question is, do the Steelers have the personnel to replace him? Thomas is very much unproven. Will they bring Allen back as a plan B? They have stocked up on futures safeties in the hopes of finding a diamond in the rough for depth, as well.