The 2017 season is over and in the books, the Pittsburgh Steelers coming up far short of their goal. While they had a regular season record of 13-3, they went 0-1 in the postseason, and that will be the legacy of this previous campaign.
The task at hand is working toward improving that postseason record and assuring that it has a zero in the loss column instead of the win column. We can take a position-by-position look at how they can work toward that goal based on their personnel.
Total Positional Figure: 10
Joe Haden: Signed in late August, veteran Joe Haden provided an immediate boost and shot to the arm in the secondary. While he had his issues, we can expect a more even performance after he actually has an offseason in the system.
Artie Burns: 2016’s first-round pick Artie Burns did not take the step forward that was expected of him, but he is still a young and developing player who made some plays on the ball. He took some risks that he lost on. Communication and tackling are a concern in his development, but he has skills to work with.
Mike Hilton: A sudden emergence, Mike Hilton’s complete game with run support and blitzing to boot solidified the slot defender position a year ago. His size limits him, but he is not without physicality.
William Gay: The 12th-year veteran William Gay is still clinging on for now. He still had some success in the dime role a year ago, but he could be trimmed or even moved full-time to safety as he approaches his mid-30s.
Cameron Sutton: A third-round pick a year ago, Cameron Sutton spent most of the year on injured reserve but he played when he was activated, even starting a game. He showed competitiveness and aggressiveness on the ball, positive signs for future growth.
Coty Sensabaugh: A free agent pickup from a year ago, Coty Sensabaugh was beaten multiple times for big plays during his short stint replacing Haden in the starting lineup with a fractured fibula. He seems likely to be released to save about a million or so.
Brian Allen: Brian Allen was drafted last year as a project and got a redshirt year, though he became a regular on special teams. His size is intriguing and they are reportedly open to moving him to safety if cornerback doesn’t pan out.
Greg Ducre: Remember him? He made a couple of plays early in the preseason but was injured. Greg Ducre spent the year on injured reserve.
Antonio Crawford: As did Antonio Crawford. The rookie out of West Virginia didn’t even get into a preseason game. In fact, he lasted just a day. I’m not sure why he was kept on injured reserve all year, frankly.
Dashaun Phillips: The Steelers traded for Dashaun Phillips, a nickel defender who can play special teams, and he spent the year on the practice squad. Should not be dismissed to potentially push for a roster spot if veterans are let go.
Offseason Strategy: Only Go After Major Value, Otherwise Stay Put
When is the last time that we have been able to say that the Steelers have some stability at the cornerback position, with talent to grow? It feels like a while. Many are down on Burns, but he is still growing (and people claiming he regressed are just wrong). Haden, Hilton, and Sutton provide hope for a bright immediate future, while Allen can still grow.
In fact, they have so many cornerbacks that they are bound to release one or two and maybe even move one to safety. It’s hard to justify going out of their way to add to this position. Even Phillips could be a contributor.