The Pittsburgh Steelers entered this league year with well over a dozen players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency. They ended up retaining five of those unrestricted free agents, and also tendered their two restricted free agents.
Pittsburgh also added help from outside of the organization at wide receiver, defensive line, running back, and cornerback, but suffered several free agency losses, chiefly at wide receiver and linebacker, and suffered yet another retirement in the process. There was one significant player release, and no contracts were restructured. One franchise tag and one major extension also transpired. They still have four 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.
Position: Outside Linebacker
Total Positional Figure: 6
Offseason additions: 2
Offseason losses: 1
James Harrison: Harrison’s cartoonish work ethic has allowed him to continue to play at a high level into his late 30s, and his current contract could see him play to the age of 40. While he still delivers, however, he is best if his snaps can be limited with a quality rotation, which they haven’t had.
Bud Dupree: This season is huge for Dupree, who has DPOY aspirations and is working hard on his pass rush this offseason. A sports hernia threatened to derail his year entirely but he was able to come back late and show some flashes. The problem is that he is currently little more than those flashes, impressive though they may be. He needs to assemble a complete game this year with a full offseason.
Anthony Chickillo: The draft classmate of Dupree spent a good portion of his own second season in the starting lineup, and did do som nice things. He is generally in the right place assignment-wise, but the upside of his talent level is limited. He is an essential contribute on special teams, however.
Arthur Moats: Depending on how the draft breaks, Moats’ roster spot could be in jeopardy due to his contract size. Not that he has done anything necessarily to deserve it. He has been a consistently adequate performer and exceptional teammate during his tenure in Pittsburgh.
Farrington Huguenin: The most interesting thing that I can say about Huguenin is that he was teammates with Dupree in college. He had limited playing time and limited production there, however.
Jason Fanaika: Fanaika has at least one thing going for him, and that’s strength. These guys are both futures signings, and frankly, that’s not the sort of talent influx the Steelers need, so I can hardly act like they stand a chance of making the roster, even if technically there is always a chance.
Players Lost/Not Retained:
Jarvis Jones: Jarvis Jones was never a fan favorite and few will remember him fondly. Not for anything that he did, but rather what he didn’t do. The 17th-overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft didn’t even produce double-digit sacks in his four-year career—or even come that close—let alone in a single season. While he developed into an adequate player, it was not enough, and it clearly became time for the two parties to go their separate ways.
Notes and Draft Outlook: When a team misses on a first-round draft pick, it has the tendency to set them back at least a couple of years, and that’s what Jarvis Jones’ selection has done. They already tried to make up for it with Bud Dupree two years ago and they may well draft another outside linebacker in the first round, if not the second. An inevitable replacement will be needed when Harrison retires, and there is still a need for pass-rush help now. It’s entirely possible that they draft multiple edge rushers in this deep class, which they did most recent in 2015, and in 2010.