Steelers Should Look Back Into Veteran DE Market As Well

Yesterday, I wrote an article suggesting that the Pittsburgh Steelers should consider exploring the residual free agency market at the cornerback position, now that the threshold has passed during which unsigned players—distinguished from free agents who were released—would influence the compensatory pick formula.

As I pointed out, the future compensatory picks was something that General Manager Kevin Colbert noted during his post-draft press conference when discussing the possibility of the team trading back into the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by trading a future pick, as they did in 2013 in the fourth round.

Cornerback was the position that immediately came to mind because it is perhaps the least secure overall in terms of depth and experience relative to what they lost. After all, the Steelers lost three contributors at the position this offseason, and drafted one, while they are also getting one back from injury. That is a net loss of one.

But the fact of the matter is that the defensive line position is still one that can be favorably addressed. The Steelers lost both Steve McLendon and Cam Thomas this offseason, the latter due to a lack of interest in retaining him. In their place are rookie Javon Hargrave and low-level free agent signing Ricardo Mathews.

Pittsburgh, however, was already having a hard enough time generating meaningful snaps, particularly in the nickel defense, which they run upwards of 70 percent of the time, with the players that have already departed, and it is unclear what level of effort they will be able to get from the two new members of the group.

With that in mind, a new secondary free agency window is now open during which the Steelers can pursue unsigned free agents with no penalty toward what they are already anticipating getting back in terms of compensatory picks for the free agency losses they’ve experienced this year—including the loss of McLendon, their starting nose tackle.

As with the cornerback position, there are indeed still some interesting names left available along the defensive line, even some familiar names, so, by request, it would make sense to address this topic as well as another potential area of the team that the Steelers can still address after the draft.

The first name that sticks out due to past association is Alex Carrington, a player that they brought in for a free agent visit two years ago but who instead signed with the Rams before returning for one more season in Buffalo last year. He is back on, and remains on, the open market.

The Steelers also previously brought in Jason Jones for a visit earlier this offseason from the Lions, and he continues to be available. Falcons veteran Kroy Biermann has taken some visits, but is still available as well.

Other names that are worth considering are an Alex Kozora favorite, Leger Douzable, Chris Canty, and the veteran Antonio Smith. None of these players would be expected to contribute much, of course, but rather just enough to take some of the load off of the Steelers’ thoroughbred linemen, Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.

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