The Pittsburgh Steelers entered this league year with nearly a couple dozen players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency. They ended up retaining five of those unrestricted free agents, but did not tender their one restricted free agent, who signed elsewhere.
Pittsburgh also added help from outside of the organization at tight end, tackle, linebacker, and the defensive line, but suffered several free agency losses, chiefly at cornerback and linebacker, and suffered yet another key retirement in the process. There were no significant player releases, and no contracts were restructured. They still have six unrestricted free agents who remain unsigned.
The organization has been clear throughout recent weeks that they have essentially wrapped up all meaningful free agent activities, with the focus turning to the draft, so now is a good time to take a look back and see where each position started at the beginning of the process and where it is now leading up to the draft.
Position: Interior OL
Total Positional Figure: 7
Offseason additions: 2
Offseason losses: 1
Maurkice Pouncey: Maurkice Pouncey has had some really bad luck in terms of injuries, but as we recently reported, he is active and working with the team now during the first phase of the offseason program. He has shown previously that he can come back from injury and dominate, so I won’t put it past him to do it again.
David DeCastro: Elevating his game this year in terms of consistency, DeCastro finally cracked the Pro Bowl and even earned first-team All-Pro recognition. While his signature play is pulling in the run game, he has made significant strides in pass protection the past two seasons.
Ramon Foster: Re-signed to a three-year contract, the veteran presence of Ramon Foster and the stability that he provides is certainly a good thing for this team. He had one of his two best seasons last year, and the interior line should finally play at full capacity this season.
Cody Wallace: Cody Wallace was undoubtedly in over his head, tasked with starting the entire season last year, but he did improve as the season wore on and became less of a liability. Already 31 and in the last year of his contract, his time with the Steelers could be running out.
Chris Hubbard: Originally an undrafted free agent three years ago, Chris Hubbard has been on the roster for two years now, and logged some time as a sixth lineman last season. He spent a handful of snaps at left tackle while Villanueva was injured. The team has flexed him out to be a five-position player, such that that means anything.
B.J. Finney (Reserve/Future): 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, eventually being paid equivalent to a rostered salary.
Cole Manhart (Reserve/Future: 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.
Players Lost/Not Retained:
Doug Legursky: Legursky was a bit of a desperation signing when Pouncey was injured, needing experienced depth, and his position on the roster was secured, perhaps, with Finney’s late preseason injury. He logged just two snaps as a kneel-down center and one as a fullback, and the team has shown no signs of wanting to re-sign him.
Notes and Draft Outlook: While they may not have shown interest in Legursky, they have shown very serious interest in the interior offensive lineman free agent market, targeting two of the premium potential backups, which suggests that they may well be legitimately interested in adding quality depth here during the draft, and won’t be counting on Hubbard or Finney to evolve into future starters.