We’re now into March, and that means that the new league year will be upon us shortly, and when that time comes, the floodgates to free agency will open—not that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be major players when it comes to signing outside free agents, as they tend to keep themselves busy in retaining their own players.
But before we get to that period, it’s time to take a look at the Steelers’ offseason roster as it appears to be shaping up as we hit the start of the new league year, at which time the team will have a couple of dozen players hitting the open market.
As with every other team, the Steelers have already made some roster tweaks, signing several players to Reserve/Futures contracts, tenders, and other sorts of contract, while also making some deletions after they waived a handful of players, so here is a position-by-position look at how the team looks heading into free agency.
Total Positional Figure: 8
Ramon Foster: Will the Steelers retain Ramon Foster? It might not be too long before we know. He may not be a day-one free agent signing, but a quality and dependable starting tackle will be desirable around the league, and he’s not likely to give the team a deal before free agency opens again after being an uncontested starter for three straight seasons and having 87 starts under his belt.
Maurkice Pouncey: After a very unfortunate injury during the preseason kept Maurkice Pouncey out for all of the 2016 season, we have been told that he is progressing well now, and there is no reason to expect that he will return and supply an immediate jolt to the offensive line.
David DeCastro: David DeCastro put together the best and most consistent season of his career in 2015, earning Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors in his fourth season. He still has room to improve, but I take that as a good thing. Even Pouncey continued to improve after making All-Pro lists.
Cody Wallace: The veteran journeyman Cody Wallace started 18 games including the playoffs at center in place of Pouncey last year and has started 22 regular season games overall for the Steelers since 2013. His play is at about replacement level, but he is a good teammate and has some of the qualities you look for in a backup. He is getting up there in age and is in the final year of his contract, so his status will be reevaluated after this season.
Chris Hubbard: Originally an undrafted free agent in 2013, Chris Hubbard has been on the roster the past two seasons, with rather sparse playing time, seeing some action as an extra lineman last year. The Steelers have aspirations of making him capable of playing five positions, but I wouldn’t consider him a roster lock just yet. He has been re-signed to an exclusive rights tender.
Doug Legursky: Doug Legursky was signed during the preseason after Pouncey’s injury. That means he was on the market unsigned. I don’t suspect the Steelers will be compelled to continue their relationship with him, although a veteran-minimum contract to compete for a spot wouldn’t be a bad thing.
B.J. Finney: A priority undrafted free agent signing in 2015, B.J. Finney was potentially in the running to make the 53-man roster, but he suffered an injury on the final snap of the preseason. When healed, he was signed to the practice squad, where he remained for the season, and has been retained on a Reserve/Future contract, where he is expected to compete for a roster spot in 2016.
Cole Manhart: Recently signed to a Reserve/Future contract, Cole Manhart was an undrafted free agent last year who briefly kicked around three different teams. A college tackle kicked inside to guard at the pro level, he is clearly on the bottom of the totem pole right now.
Offseason Strategy: Offseason strategy? Re-sign Ramon Foster and call it a day. If the Steelers fail to re-sign Foster, then they will have to address a hole in the starting lineup that none of the reserves can satisfyingly fill, meaning that they will either have to address it in free agency or high in the draft, or go into the season with a notable downgrade at a position of strength. They have depth, but without Foster, they won’t have the top end secure.