The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.
Question: If the Steelers were to acquire a new 2018 starter, would you prefer it to be at safety or inside linebacker?
The Steelers know that they have at least one major hole to fill this offseason, and that would be at the inside linebacker position. But if they choose to part with Mike Mitchell, that opens up another hole at safety (for the sake of the inevitable comments, many contend that the hole at safety exists whether Mitchell is on the roster or not).
It’s not often that Pittsburgh utilizes free agency to find starters. Even when they lose players, it’s rare that they turn to free agency. When Troy Polamalu retired, for example, they intended to shift to Shamarko Thomas, and then turned to Will Allen instead. After that, they drafted Sean Davis and started Robert Golden as a bridge.
There are exceptions, of course. Ryan Clark was replaced by Mitchell himself, while Ladarius Green at right end was brought in when Heath Miller retired, but these cases tend to be rare. Given that, it may make one thing the team is even less likely to part with Mitchell.
But there are options at both positions, many of which might be affordable, even if they have to franchise tag Le’Veon Bell, though it would of course require more tinkering.
At inside linebacker, for example, some possible candidates could include familiar names from last year’s interest radar, such as Zach Brown and Gerald Hodges. Demario Davis, Avery Williamson, Todd Davis, and Nigel Bradham are among the other options that will be available and possibly realistic for Pittsburgh.
The safety position also has some interesting names, particular among those who could possibly serve as a deep safety, like Lamarcus Joyner, Eric Reid, Tre Boston, Ricardo Allen, and Bradley McDougald. T.J. Ward is probably longer in the tooth than they would care for at this point. Maybe even a Kenny Vaccaro, a former first-round failure, could be an option.