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: 3
Offseason losses: 2
Marcus Gilbert: In his fifth NFL season, Marcus Gilbert continued his upward trajectory in a significant way, during the course of which he completed a physical transformation, as he now plays at nearly just 300 pounds, improving his agility and endurance. He has serious Pro Bowl potential, and aspirations, for 2016.
Alejandro Villanueva: We know the backstory. He spent 2014 on the practice squad learning the tackle position again, managed to make the 53-man roster as a backup last season, but then was thrust into the starting lineup, and generally held his own—enough to make losing Kelvin Beachum an easier sell. He won’t be handed the starting job, but he might be the favorite for it.
Mike Adams: A former 2012 second-round pick, Mike Adams’ career has been a disappointment, to be certain. He technically should have hit free agency this offseason, but his contract was tolled one additional year due to the fact that he spent the season on the PUP list. At this point, however, he is clearly no better than the fourth tackle on the depth chart, and would be lucky to make the roster.
Ryan Harris: A veteran of many years, Ryan Harris has had his career ups and downs, including battles with injuries, but he was a 16-game starter for the Broncos last year, and will provide key competition for Villanueva for the starting left tackle spot.
Matt Feiler (Reserve/Future): 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 (Reserve/Future): 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.
Players Lost/Not Retained:
Kelvin Beachum: The Steelers’ primary starting left tackle over the course of the past three seasons, Kelvin Beachum’s 2015 season, and 2016 free agency prospects, took a major hit when he suffered a torn ACL in the first half of the year. He agreed to a layered one-year contract in free agency for a moderate sum that includes an extensive and lucrative club option in 2017.
Byron Stingily: Signed to provide depth following Beachum’s injury, Byron Stingily never dressed, instead serving as the fourth tackle behind Chris Hubbard, the latter even getting in-game. He recently signed a one-year deal with the Giants.
Notes and Draft Outlook: A mentioned above, Hubbard needs to be mentioned in some form or fashion here as the Steelers aspire to make him a five-position player along the offensive line. Adams’ roster prospects hinge on the team not only choosing to carry four pure tackles, but also failing to address the position in the draft. But one gets the sense that they would like to add a multi-positional player at some point, perhaps late in the draft.