The Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 season came to an end this past Sunday in Foxborough and with the 2017 NFL Draft still a long way off, we’ll have plenty of time to dissect what went right and wrong dating back to last offseason.
In this post, I will recap the Steelers players that I feel disappointed the most in 2016 and I invite those of you who read this to add to the list in the comments section.
Ladarius Green – This list absolutely must be led by Green, who the Steelers signed to a four-year, $20 million contract last March. The Steelers signed Green knowing he was damaged goods as not only was he rehabbing a surgically repaired ankle at the time, he also entered the 2016 offseason with a concussion history as well. While we may never know for certain whether or not headaches were the real reason why Green spent the first half of the 2016 regular season on the Reserve/PUP list, it really doesn’t matter at this point. Sure, when Green finally did begin playing he contributed in a big way, but that stretch of six games that included 140 total offensive snaps came to an end in Week 15 due to him suffering yet another concussion. The Steelers really could have used Green during the playoffs. When the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we’ll find out if the Steelers think they have a Green Ferrari or a Green lemon.
Sammie Coates – There were high expectations for Coates in 2016 and especially being as fellow Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant was forced to miss the entire season due to a suspension. While Coates’ initially looked like he would live up to those expectations by catching 19 passes for 421 yards and two touchdowns in the Steelers first five games, a few broken fingers suffered in Week 5 sent him spiraling in the opposite direction. Coates’ 2016 season would have been a total disaster had he not been able to become a contributor on special teams. His 2016 season ended with another huge drop early in the Steelers AFC Championship game loss to the New England Patriots. Perhaps Coates should think about asking the Steelers to change uniform numbers during the offseason as he’s really starting to resemble another former Pittsburgh wide receiver who wore No. 14.
Markus Wheaton – Even though Wheaton’s first three seasons with the Steelers were wildly inconsistent, there were still expectations that he could once again catch another 40-50 passes for 500-600 yards in 2016. Wheaton, however, never could shake a shoulder injury that he apparently suffered ahead of the start of the preseason and it ultimately resulted in him being placed on the team’s Reserve/Injured list this past November after playing in just three regular season games and catching only four passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. With Wheaton now scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in a few more weeks, he’s likely played his last snap in Pittsburgh.
Senquez Golson – Heading into training camp it looked like the Steelers might finally get to see what Golson could do in an NFL stadium. That optimism quickly came to an end during the first week in Latrobe, however, as Golson suffered a Lisfranc injury that would ultimately result in him being placed on the team’s Reserve/Injured list midway through the regular season. Sure, players don’t plan to be injured, but it’s starting to look more and more like Golson can’t plan on not being injured. The Steelers spent a second-round draft pick on Golson and still haven’t been able to see him play one single snap. They certainly could have used him in the slot in 2016.
Justin Gilbert – While it wasn’t really his fault, Gilbert probably still deserves to be on this list nonetheless and especially being as the Steelers traded for the former first-round draft pick just prior to the start of the 2016 regular season. While I can certainly understand him needing to go through an adjustment period early on during the season, Gilbert still wound up only playing 11 total defensive snaps in 2016 and returned just 3 kickoffs ahead of the playoffs. As bad as the Steelers kickoff return team was, one would think that Gilbert should have been given as many opportunities to be back deep as possible. Sure, the Steelers only gave up a 2018 sixth-round draft pick for Gilbert, but as of right now, it looks like they got the bad end of that deal. Gilbert is now set to be an expensive backup in 2017 and that’s a bit concerning.