There’s no question the 2018 NFL Draft is critical for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A Super Bowl window that is closing; a team that is unlikely to have Le’Veon Bell beyond this year, Ben Roethlisberger for only a couple more. With some obvious holes on defense, the draft is how the team will have to plug them long-term.
But free agency needs to compliment those draft plans. Walk into April’s draft with major holes at inside linebacker and safety and the Steelers are in substantial trouble. The feeling of being obligated to take those two positions as soon as possible. Adding Jon Bostic calmed down the inside linebacker spot. Didn’t solve it, let’s be clear about that, but it gives the Steelers some flexibility.
They can now enter Week One with him as the starting Mack linebacker. It isn’t perfect and the team will still have to adjust without Ryan Shazier but it’s doable. A better place than before, at least.
Safety has to be viewed in the some way. Get a Bostic-type of safety and you can put a bow on free agency. Go into the season with that free agent, a draft pick, and J.J. Wilcox and you can create competition, let the cream rise to the top. And the Steelers won’t feel compelled to take one first chance they get in a down class. There’s no guarantee they get Justin Reid in the first round. No guarantee they view Jessie Bates as a first round talent.
Options are the key in the draft. Focus on one position and you reach for talent. If they had a free agent, they can choose the best talent between inside linebacker, safety, and frankly, another position (outside linebacker would definitely be in the mix) that fits the first round talent. When the Steelers take top talent, they get it right. When they seem to focus more on the position, the odds are worse (Jarvis Jones, Artie Burns).
What safety could fit that bill? Bostic sorta came out of left field so I’m not going to make too many more proclamations going forward. But the market has been slow and there are options available. My guess is the Steelers find someone. You don’t release two safeties and a third DB to only replace him with one in late April.
As quiet as this offseason has been, if the Steelers make that one more move, it’ll have been a typical – and very Pittsburgh-like – couple of weeks.