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.
Total Positional Figure: 6
Offseason additions: 2
Offseason losses: 0
Shaun Suisham: Shaun Suisham, the Steelers’ veteran place kicker, has been one of the best in the league in recent years, posting some of the most consistent accuracy numbers over the course of the 2012-2014 seasons, but, of course, he missed all of the 2015 season with a torn ACL.
It took a few tries, but the team did finally find a suitable replacement for the 2015 season in Chris Boswell, and he might very well keep him out of a job. Boswell is much younger, cheaper, and had an undoubtedly impressive first season, and particularly a strong playoff run. They will likely try to trade him for a late-round pick during the preseason assuming Boswell continues to perform well.
Chris Boswell: The aforementioned Chris Boswell was signed four weeks into the regular season having never kicked in an NFL game before and showed well immediately. He went 29 for 32 during the regular season and 7 for 7 in the playoffs. His overall leg strength is yet to be determined, as he was no better than Suisham on kickoffs in the regular season.
Greg Warren: Greg Warren isn’t going anywhere until he wants to. He will be their long snapper until he chooses to retire. Sorry, Matt Dooley.
Jordan Berry: Jordan Berry’s position is by far the least stable among the special teams ‘starters’, yet punter is the one position at which they have not yet added a player. They will inevitable do so after the draft, as they will need one for rookie minicamp, but ideally they will be able to add somebody that will give him legitimate competition or at least push him.
Matt Dooley (Reserve/Future): Matt Dooley, the former Indiana product, is a first-year player added as a futures player, and will serve as long snapper during the rookie minicamp, perhaps a bit longer. But he doesn’t have much chance to make the roster.
Ty Long (Reserve/Future): Kicker Ty Long, like Dooley, will be the team’s kicker for rookie minicamp, but they are already trying to decide between two kickers to take into the season.
Notes and Draft Outlook: It’s highly unlikely, as it almost always the case, that the Steelers address any specialist positions during the draft, even if the number of such players being drafted has increased in recent years. But adding a punter as an undrafted rookie free agent is virtually assured.