Now that we have completed our look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster heading into OTAs, it’s time to take a look back at the team’s 53-man roster from last year’s regular season, for the purpose of revisiting the contributions of the players that are no longer with the team, and whether or not those contributions have been adequately replaced.
Roster turnover is just a natural fact of today’s NFL, which have only become more prominent since the advent of free agency more than two decades ago. It’s very rare for a team to return all 11 starters on one side of the ball from one year to the next, let alone to do so for both the offense and defense.
The Steelers are certainly no exception to that rule, and they figure to have a number of lineup changes from 2014 to 2015—more so than usual, perhaps, with the retirement of three starters on the defensive side of the ball alone.
He may not have been a long-time presence on the defense, as was the case with the previous three players that we have revisited thus far in this series, but cornerback Brice McCain certainly had more than his fair share of meaningful contributions during his lone season in Pittsburgh.
Signed as a bargain bin free agent for the veteran minimum on a one-year deal, the former Texan became a highly valuable piece of the Steelers’ defensive puzzle a year ago as the secondary was chipped away due to injury and ineffectiveness.
By week seven, when the Steelers faced his old team, he found himself in the starting lineup after playing the previous three games in the nickel. Just two weeks prior, he helped seal a road victory in Jacksonville with a late pick-six that helped catch the coaching staff’s attention.
He may have played his best game all year against the Texans, but he was generally consistent all year, when given the tempered expectations for his performance, given that he had moved up at least two or three rungs on the depth chart.
Despite his height, he held his own more often than not on the outside, but he moved into the slot during sub-packages. Though he gave up a deep ball touchdown to the Ravens in a game the Steelers came to dominate, he had two crucial interceptions in the season finale that helped secure Pittsburgh’s first division title since 2010.
McCain proved to be a crucial free agent signing in a way never anticipated, and it helped earn him a nice free agent contract this offseason—the team’s only free agent loss via signing by another team.
The Steelers are hoping that a rebound performance from Cortez Allen and another year of improvement from Antwon Blake will go a long way in filling the voids left in a secondary that was already sub-par. In the meantime, their new draftees, Senquez Golson and Doran Grant, will be groomed to play if necessary in sub-packages.