We started this series with less than two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Steelers had 10 players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this offseason and have re-signed four of them, those being Le’Veon Bell, Justin Hunter, Stevan Ridley, and Daniel McCullers. The only unrestricted free agent to sign elsewhere has been Chris Hubbard. They resigned nine exclusive rights or restricted free agents, from Fitzgerald Toussaint and Mike Hilton to Chris Boswell and Roosevelt Nix.
Also of note were the released of William Gay, Mike Mitchell, and Robert Golden, the three most veteran players in the secondary. The team has signed three outside free agents in Jon Bostic, Morgan Burnett, and Nat Berhe. Now we examine how these moves and their pre-draft hints shape their future based on position since the offseason has begun.
Total Positional Figure: 7
Offseason Additions: 0
Offseason Deletions: 1
Joe Haden: Haden is technically the biggest free agent the Steelers have ever signed, though he was a street free agent and not a standard unrestricted free agent March signing. Regardless, the team will expect him to play in that manner in 2018 after having a full, and healthy, offseason.
Artie Burns: This is a critical year for the former first-round draft pick. The growing pains, or at least most of them, should be behind Burns. Perhaps tweaks to the defensive system that better serve what he is comfortable doing will help him settle into a consistent role.
Mike Hilton: Arguably the biggest revelation of last season, Hilton emerged as the team’s nickel cornerback beginning in the season opener and proved to be a dynamic defender capable of contributing in all three phases, as well as on special teams.
Cameron Sutton: Last year’s third-round pick, Sutton’s debut was delayed due to injury, but he got some playing time in the second half of the season, even starting a game, and seems in line to open as a dime back.
Coty Sensabaugh: Sensabaugh’s roster spot should probably be considered vulnerable even if the team doesn’t take a cornerback. He is fifth on the depth chart at best and was a healthy scratch late in the year.
Brian Allen: Another second-year cornerback, Allen cut his teeth on special teams, where he developed into a regular contributor. After his defensive redshirt season, he will compete for an actual role, if even as a backup.
Dashaun Phillips: Let’s not forget about Phillips, who spent the 2017 season on the practice squad. Acquired via trade, he has been a nickel contributor and special teams player in the past for Washington.
Players Added: N/A
William Gay: It’s been a long ride for Gay, but at least as far as Pittsburgh is concerned, it’s come to an end. He will be playing his 12th season with the Giants after his role with the Steelers was reduced to dime, and projected to be possibly inactive in 2018.
Notes And Draft Outlook:
The quality of the high-end talent will be debated, but it’s undeniable that the cornerback position is one of the deepest positions on the team. Even after cutting one, they retain seven players that were with them from a season ago, including five who played meaningful snaps on defense.
If they do draft a cornerback, it will probably have to be a scenario in which the player is clearly the best player available, especially given that they only have seven picks in the draft this year.