It’s sometimes fun, sometimes mind-numbingly annoying to read the opinions of proverbial outsiders when it comes to the team that you follow. Some, however, feel ambitious enough to cast the widest possible net and believe that they can hit the right details of every team.
Recently, Bill Barnwell began tackling an offseason checklist of sorts for every team in the NFL, and he covered the AFC North this past week, including, for obvious reasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers. There are five bullet points he believes the Steelers should accomplish this offseason, some obvious, some…less than obvious.
Barnwell believes the Steelers’ highest priority this offseason should be to give running back Le’Veon Bell the franchise tag, seemingly resigned to the notion that he is not going to accept a long-term contract given that he turned one down last year that was worth $14 million per season, according to a report.
He talks about how Bell was “closer to good than great” in 2017, reflecting upon the fact that his efficiency numbers saw a significant downturn after he rushed for nearly five yards per carry over the course of the previous two seasons. His dearth of long runs also made him hesitant to make a long-term commitment for market-shattering return.
I think most people have probably settled on the reality that Bell is most likely looking at another year under the franchise tag. I would hope that almost everybody also realizes Barnwell’s second priority is obvious, which is to create more cap space. He mentions the obvious moves, like Antonio Brown getting his contract restructured and releasing the overpaid safeties.
Beyond that, Barnwell argues that Bud Dupree’s fifth-year option should be picked up. While he says he is “skeptical of a Dupree breakout”, he also argues that “the risk of picking up Dupree’s option is outweighed by the possible reward”, given that his 2019 salary only becomes guaranteed in the event of injury, which is exceedingly rare.
The fourth priority is where it gets interesting. Barnell seems to believe heavily that the Steelers need to be concerned with the future of the left guard position, with Ramon Foster in the final year of his contract and at the age of 32.
He doesn’t even mention B.J. Finney, yet mentions Chris Hubbard leaving. It sounds as though he is unaware that Finney has started five games at left guard the past two years, though I hope that’s not the case. He advocates for drafting a lineman high “who can serve in Hubbard’s role before moving into the starting lineup”. While I believe the Steelers should consider drafting a lineman, it probably won’t be until day three.
Finally, he thinks the Steelers should find a pass-catching running back that can complement James Conner, citing Bell’s injury history: “history tells us that four available months from the star running back are the exception, not the rule”. He cites veterans such as Lance Dunbar and Shane Vereen as possibilities.
What do you think of Barnwell’s offseason priorities?