The season might not quite be over for another couple of days, but 30 teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, have already hit offseason mode following their elimination, either prior to or during the playoffs. Pittsburgh got quite far this year, reaching the AFC Championship game for the first time since 2010
But before we get too deep into the offseason, it’s time to take a look at the Steelers’ roster as it appears to be shaping up as we look ahead to 2017.
As with almost every other team, the Steelers have already made some roster tweaks, signing several players to Reserve/Futures contracts, tenders, and other sorts of contract, , so here is a position-by-position look at how the team looks heading into the offseason.
Position: Wide Receiver
Total Positional Figure: 11
Antonio Brown: Antonio Brown doesn’t really need any endorsements at this point. A perennial All-Pro who has put up some astounding statistics in recent years, there is very little on the football field that he can’t do. In spite of some “little annoyances”, the Steelers are apparently working toward a long-term extension.
Sammie Coates: The Steelers struck gold with Coates in the early stages of the 2016 season before his hand injury sidetracked everything. Big-bodied, tall, and fast, he showed off all of those assets in the first five games and demonstrated improvement over that time. Hopefully this recent hand surgery will get him back to where he was.
Eli Rogers: The Steelers’ slot receiver, Rogers made some big plays for the team this year in his first season of work. But he too still has room to grow. If everything goes right in terms of getting their full complement of receivers back in 2017, he may struggle to see the field.
Markus Wheaton: The overwhelming majority opinion is that Wheaton will find a new team in free agency this year after his rookie contract expires. He made strides in the second half of the 2015 season, but never got going this past season due to a shoulder injury that landed him on injured reserve.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: Heyward-Bey plays an important role in the locker room for the Steelers and is a valuable special-teamer. He can step in and contribute on offense when called upon. Exactly the sort of depth good teams need.
Cobi Hamilton: A scrap heap find, Cobi Hamilton showed some toughness and grit for the Steelers this year after being called up from the practice squad. He’s tall and willing to jump for balls, and more importantly, willing to block and to come back for the ball. Yet there may not be room for him next season.
Demarcus Ayers: A rookie seventh-rounder, Ayers spent most of the season on the practice squad before being called up and making some positive contributions in four games. He was a healthy scratch in the loss to the Patriots. Again, due to depth, a spot might be hard to find again.
Canaan Severin: A 2016 undrafted rookie, the Steelers must have seen something in him that they want to see more of after they carried him on injured reserve all year. He’s tall, at least.
Marcus Tucker: Tucker was in camp with the Steelers last year and I recall him logging some quality snaps on special teams. He is back on a Reserve/Future contract.
Dez Stewart: Joining Tucker is Dez Stewart, a small-school product with a good combination of height, size, and speed. He bounced around multiple teams last year after going undrafted, including spending time on the Packers’ practice squad.
Martavis Bryant: And then there’s the elephant in the room, Martavis Bryant. What does the future hold for him? That’s largely up to the commissioner, and to himself. He has applied for reinstatement, but we’ll see. He would be a huge boon to the Steelers’ on-field product.
Offseason Strategy: It’s hard to say that the offseason hinges on what happens with Bryant because the team is likely not relying upon him even if he is reinstated. He has been away for about a year now and they will have to re-learn each other. Coates’ hand is another big question mark.
Brown’s extension appears to be a priority, but most suspect they won’t try very hard to re-sign Wheaton. After that, who knows. There are too many variables to really predict just how much the front office believes they do or do not need to bolster the position. Some think they shouldn’t do anything, while others are mocking them a receiver in the first round already. I’m personally not convinced either way.