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: 5
Ben Roethlisberger: Ben Roethlisberger is sort of a franchise quarterback, so he is a bit of a big deal. The 33-year old is signed for four more years, and after two years of relative health, he got banged up several times in 2015. Though they protected him well, the priority will continue to be keeping him as healthy as possible.
Landry Jones: A third-year quarterback, Landry Jones emerged as the team’s backup by necessity, appearing in several games and performing sporadically well, including a two-touchdown fourth quarter that led to a comeback victory replacing the injured Mike Vick. On the other hand, his off-the-bench effort in the postseason left much to be desired.
Mike Vick: The Steelers signed Mike Vick after Bruce Gradkowski went down during the preseason because they weren’t confident yet in Landry Jones to be the backup—although they may have signed him anyway, to be the team’s third quarterback. But he started three games and was fortunate not to throw a half-dozen interceptions. He appears to be at the end of the line at 35 years old
Bruce Gradkowski: It is ironic that in his third season with the team, the Steelers finally needed Bruce Gradkowski after two years of health from Roethlisberger, but this was the year he missed for the team. Already dealing with a weak shoulder, he suffered a thumb injury during the preseason that prompted surgeries for both and a trip to injured reserve.
Dustin Vaughan: Originally signed by the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, Dustin Vaughan has good size and drew lots of attention after the draft. He played well in the preseason and made Dallas’ roster as the third quarterback in 2014, but they decided to keep only two last year. He spent time with Buffalo’s practice squad after that and then signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Steelers after the season.
Offseason Strategy: The Steelers will in all likelihood address the quarterback position in some form or fashion. Not including Vaughan, they have only two quarterbacks under contract, and would probably like to have a veteran in the mix. I would be shocked if it was Vick, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it wasn’t Gradkowski either. Pittsburgh isn’t yet sold on Jones being the uncontested number two, however, and he’s in the final year of his rookie contract.