Today is the first day of March, but it’s also a day closer to the NFL Draft as the next major event in the league calendar following the conclusion of the Combine—excluding the opening of the free agency period later this month, of course.
Typically, the Pittsburgh Steelers are highly conservative players in free agency, rarely even signing outside free agents to multiple-year contracts—typically one or two at most—instead utilizing this period merely to fill holes in an effort to prevent the compulsion to reach for a position of need during the draft.
And as far as holes go—depending on how the offensive line position resolves itself, of course—the Steelers’ roster shapes up very well in terms of corresponding to the talent that will be coming through the league doors this year as rookies. This year heavily favors the defensive side of the ball in terms of talent, and that is where Pittsburgh is strong.
They have wide receivers, for example—and of their four primary wide receivers, only one of them is entering the season with a contract that expires in 2017. That’s an awful lot of leeway for such a crucial position, especially when considering the relative weakness of this year’s wide receiver class in comparison to the last two seasons, during which they added two size and speed players to the group in the middle rounds.
The Steelers also have their starting running back, and one that they would like to work out an extension with before the regular season begins, and they also have his backup, who played a crucial role in his stead this past season. There are depth options behind them as well, including two backs that were able to get playing experience during the playoffs.
While Heath Miller retired, the team still has several bodies at the tight end position, and could still choose to address this spot in free agency if they find something that works. Even without Miller, it doesn’t become a glaring need, but rather a position that could be bolstered if the situation breaks the right way that it becomes the smart thing to do to address it, given the alternatives.
And, of course, they also have their quarterback, as well as his backup, and have tended to have a longer history of adding veteran backups rather than drafting novice ones. The offensive line is the real one spot, with two big pending free agents, that could force the team to act in the draft.
But none of these positions are really major needs, or at least not ones that cannot be addressed internally, which includes the re-signing of the team’s own pending free agents.
In a year in which the Steelers have given up a couple of later draft picks, it’s all the more fortunate that some of the team’s biggest areas of weaknesses are also some of the deepest and most talented spots in the draft, particular along the defensive line and in the secondary. Let’s hope they are able to take advantage of this bounty.