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: 7
Kelvin Beachum: In spite of his physical limitations, Kelvin Beachum worked his way up to the status of a top-10 left tackle by the time he tore his ACL last season. That is likely enough to place him out of the Steelers’ price range.
Marcus Gilbert: The five-year veteran Marcus Gilbert has been on a steady ascent, particularly over the past two seasons, last year turning in a Pro Bowl-worthy season and cementing his status as a quality right tackle, even if it seems to be a bit of a secret around the league.
Alejandro Villanueva: Alejandro Villanueva’s back story is still more impressive than his play on the field, but he showed as an injury replacement starter that there is more than enough to work with at left tackle, and the Steelers may choose—or have to choose—just that.
Mike Adams: After spending the entire season on the PUP list, former second-round borderline bust Mike Adams’ contract will be tolled through the 2016 season, where he will hope to resume his role as the swing tackle.
Byron Stingily: If the Steelers re-sign Byron Stingily, who was signed after Beachum’s injury, he could compete for the swing tackle job. He also has experience with the team’s offensive line coach.
Matt Feiler: Matt Feiler spent all of the season on the practice squad after spending 2014 on the Texans’ practice squad. He has already been signed to a Reserve/Future contract.
Brian Mihalik: Also added to the mix on a Reserve/Future contract was Brian Mihalik, who is big, but still new to the position, having been drafted last year as a defensive end in the seventh round.
Kelvin Palmer: Kelvin Palmer was a late addition just before training camp who worked his way into the competition to land the tackle spot on the practice squad, but he was injured in the final preseason game. The Steelers recently waived Palmer, Van Dyk, and Hatchie, all of whom spent the season on injured reserve.
Mitchell Van Dyk: A former seventh-round draft pick in 2014 of the Rams, Mitchell Van Dyk was comparable to Palmer in the race for a practice squad spot. He was injured on the last play of the preseason and spent the year on injured reserve before being waived recently.
Micah Hatchie: Unlike the two aforementioned, Micah Hatchie, a rookie undrafted free agent, was injured during the offseason and waived, spending the year on injured reserve. Like them, however, he was just waived from the offseason roster.
Offseason Strategy: While the Steelers currently technically have seven tackles under contract, Beachum and Stingily will be free agents shortly, and Beachum is unlikely to be retained, while it’s not apparent that they will have interest in retaining him after spending every game inactive over Chris Hubbard, who served as an emergency tackle last year.
Even assuming that Mike Adams is able to return to health enough to take the field next year, you would think that the Steelers will be interested in challenging him to be the third tackle on the depth chart and one snap away from starting the way Villanueva was last year.