Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 season has come to an end, the team has several questions that must be answered over the course of the offseason. Below are my 10 questions that must be answered by the team between now and the start of the 2016 regular season and I invite you to add additional ones in the comments.
Will Jarvis Jones have his 5th-year option picked up?
It won’t be long until the Steelers have to decide whether or not to pick up the fifth-year option on outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. That option amount will likely be more than $8 million for the 2017 season. It is, however, only guaranteed for injury until the start of the 2017 league year. While Jones did have his monuments in 2015, he only has 5 career regular season sacks in his first three years in the league.
Will James Harrison want to return and will the Steelers want him back?
As of right now, veteran outside linebacker James Harrison isn’t sure whether or not he will return to play out the final year of his contract. He had 5 sacks in 2015 and that means he needs a few more in order to take over the franchise lead in that statistical category. Even if he wants to return for one last season, the Steelers might decide it’s time to move on from him even though he won’t cost much to keep around. One would think we’ll have our answer come the start of the new league year.
What does the offseason hold for Antonio Brown when it comes to his contract situation?
You could certainly make an argument that Antonio Brown is the best wide receiver in the league right now. You can also argue that he deserves a big raise even though he’s under contract through the 2017 season. Before the 2015 season started, general manager Kevin Colbert made it known that Brown won’t receiver an extension until he’s about to enter his final year so it will be interesting to see if he holds true to his word. In order to appease Brown, the Steelers might have to restructure his contract just like they did this past season. That means paying him the money he’s due in 2017 right now. That course of action, however, problem would still leave Brown underpaid by a few million. Will Brown skip the offseason program in attempt to force the Steelers hand? Will he sit out some of training camp as well? We’ll see.
How many of their own unrestricted free agents will the Steelers be able to keep?
The Steelers certainly have their fair share of players who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents and while they won’t be able to re-sign all of them, there are quite a few you know they would like to have back if at all possible by the start of the new league year. That key group of players includes William Gay, Ramon Foster, Steve McLendon, Kelvin Beachum, Brandon Boykin, and Robert Golden. Of that group, I like the chances of Gay, Foster, McLendon and Golden all returning.
Will LeVeon Bell get an extension?
It’s a forgone conclusion that guard David DeCastro will get a new deal at some point during the offseason, but what about running back Le’Veon Bell? Logic tells you he’ll likely get one, but it might not be a slam-dunk. Bell, after all, has failed to finish out the season two years in a row and it will still be a while until he’s fully recovered from his latest knee injury. He’s a top-3 running back when healthy and will likely expect to be paid like it. If an extension isn’t given, the Steelers would have to tag him after the 2016 in order to keep him in Pittsburgh.
Will Lawrence Timmons be extended with no new guaranteed money?
The Steelers need to do something about the cap charge linebacker Lawrence Timmons is scheduled to have in 2016. Unless he’s outright released, the only way that number will go down is via an extension. He’ll turn 30 in May, so the Steelers need to be careful with him when comes to giving him more guaranteed money. Will he be willing to take an extension similar to the ones given to Heath Miller and Troy Polamalu a few years ago? That certainly would help the Steelers out and also allow Timmons to end his career in Pittsburgh in the process.
Can Cortez Allen be saved?
The Steelers have not gotten a return on their investment when it comes to cornerback Cortez Allen. For a second straight season he wound up on the Reserve/Injured list and this year only played in one game. Assuming he can pass a physical, expect Allen to back in training camp competing for a starting job. If he can’t win one, he will likely wind up being a post June 1 cut.
How much free agency activity will there be?
The Steelers were mighty quiet last year during the main free agency period as veteran running back DeAngelo Williams was the only free agent that they signed. Williams, however, was a street free agent after being released by the Carolina Panthers. Several have suggested that the Steelers go after safety Eric Weddle now that his time is up with the San Diego Chargers, but if we use history as our guide, the fact that he’s now 31 rules him out as a potential candidate. In other words, don’t expect the Steelers to be busy signing many, if any, high profile free agents prior to the draft taking place.
Who will they draft?
This question is a yearly one and as always, it’s not hard to figure out the Steelers needs. This draft really should be heavy on defensive players, one would think, as they could use outside and inside linebackers in addition to another safety and cornerback. A guard and tight end also aren’t out of the question. We’ll get more into those needs in a future post. As of right now, the Steelers don’t have a 5th or 6th round pick in the draft as they traded them away for players just prior to the start of the season. They do, however have a conditional 7th round pick coming their way from the New York Giants and should get another late-round compensatory draft pick for the loss of cornerback Brice McCain last year. In other words, seven picks this year.
Will there be any turnover on the coaching staff?
While it’s obvious that most of the Steelers coaches will be back in 2016, you never know if one or two might be let go or wind up elsewhere via a promotion. Todd Haley and Keith Butler are almost guaranteed to be back and one would think Danny Smith will be retained as well. But, what about the positional coaches? Will John Mitchell retire? Will Carnell Lake be let go? How about offensive assistant Shaun Sarrett, will another team view him as an offensive line coach candidate? If any moves are to happen, one would think they will take place over the course of the next 3 or 4 weeks.