The NFL’s free agency period for the 2018 season began March 14 – less than a week ago. Alex Kozora reported that the Steelers were tied as the most inactive team in free agency the other day. In the article, Alex advised that in 2017 the Black & Gold did not pick any one up until six days after free agency started. He also opined that, “… probably by early next week, the Steelers will have scooped someone up.”
Sunday is the start of the week and reports are that the Steelers have signed linebacker Jon Bostic, an unrestricted free agent from the Colts, to a two-year contract. This is the 4th day of the free agency period so the Steelers are ahead of the pace they set last year.
The Steelers have 12 unrestricted free agents; with Chris Hubbard being the only one signed with another team so far. If we add Ryan Shazier along with Steve Johnson & James Harrison who were released last season – there are 15 players that played snaps for the Steelers in 2017 who could be signed by another team or are already unavailable to play in 2018.
Pittsburgh still has the draft and may pick up other players to strengthen a roster that went 13-3 during the regular season but failed in the playoffs. I’ve broken down the snaps played by the 15 who will not be on the Steelers roster unless they are re-signed by the team.
According to Pro Football Reference; the Steelers offense played 1106 offensive snaps in the 2017 regular season. Chris Hubbard played in over 70% of the snaps and is credited with ten starts and p0layed in all 16 games. Eli Rogers played in over a third of Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps while Stevan Ridley was only around for two games.
Hubbard’s snaps may be absorbed by some combination of B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler & Jerald Hawkins. Those three played a total of 358 snaps last year. If the starting line stays relatively healthy the Steelers may stay put with this unit. Rogers and/or Hunter may be re-signed if no one else shows interest. This would free up Pittsburgh to focus on defense in both the draft and free agent market. Picking Ridley back up likely depends on Le’Veon Bell’s contract situation and James Conner’s recovery progress.
A couple things stand out to me looking at the defensive snaps chart. There is of course the gaping hole at inside linebacker left by Ryan Shazier’s devastating injury. This is closely followed by the need to acquire a safety. Almost twice as many defensive snaps lost as offensive. In 2018; this side of the roster likely to see a lot more change while the offense could stay relatively table.
The acquisition of Bostic may spell the end for Arthur Moats and/or Sean Spence wearing the Black & Gold. There are a bevy of young cornerbacks with another year’s experience that may make William Gay expendable. Perhaps Mike Mitchell and/or Robert Golden re-signed if not picked up by other teams.
We can’t forget about special teams. This is an underappreciated part of the game in my opinion even with Danny Smith’s chewing gum chomping grabbing our attention. There were 442 special team snaps which include those game winning field goals by Chris Boswell.
Robert Golden’s 300 special teams snaps leap out at me from this chart. Steelers Depot has reported before the importance of the upback position on punts. I’m not sure how easy it is for players to adapt to this role but that is a hole that must be filled. Perhaps, this gives an edge to Golden being re-signed. Although Eli Rogers only had 43 special team snaps 19 were on punt returns – a role he was re-entrusted with after a fumble early in the year. Not sure what will happen with kick returns which was a weakness. My vote would be for JuJu Smith-Schuster to take that role.
So, this was just another perspective of the Steelers free agency status focused on the players they stand to lose from last season. The current Steelers roster shows 63 players by my count – well below the 90-player maximum. Standby as the Steelers will be adding to this list in the coming weeks.
Here is a random song from among my Pandora stations that popped up. I think it is appropriate during the free agency period: Looking for a Love by the J. Geils Band.