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.
Position: Outside Linebacker
Total Positional Figure: 6
Offseason Additions: 1
Offseason Deletions: 1
T.J. Watt: Last year’s first-round draft pick, Watt flashed potential as a complete player during his rookie season, during which he was a starter from beginning to end. He had seven sacks and seven pass deflections, plus an interception and a forced fumble on top of that.
Bud Dupree: Time is running out for the 2015 first-round draft pick. The only argument he has for not producing better than he has is injuries, but there is no time for excuses at this point. If he doesn’t show significant improvement he probably will not be on the roster in 2019.
Anthony Chickillo: Entering his fourth season, Chickillo spent about half of his career working himself into his new body after slimming down from playing on the defensive line at the collegiate level. There are those who remain true believers in his abilities, though seems destined to be a career backup.
Keion Adams: Last year’s seventh-round draft pick, Adams spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Many are intrigued by what he might show, but he will likely have to earn a roster spot via special teams.
Farrington Huguenin: Huguenin spent the year on the practice squad. He had a decent showing during the preseason and could be competing for that job again this year.
Darnell Leslie: Listed as a defensive end, he will obviously be playing outside linebacker at 6’2”, 235 pounds. He does have some pass-rushing potential.
Arthur Moats: No, not James Harrison, because he was released during the season. The Steelers are reportedly keeping the door open for Moats, but that probably depends on what happens in the draft. He’s been good in the locker room.
Notes And Draft Outlook:
Many are talking about the outside linebacker position as a key ‘want’ area in the draft—some even calling it a need. It’s understandable. Jarvis Jones already flamed out and Dupree seems to be headed in a similar though not quite as poor direction. Watt has the makings of a long-term starter, but the other end remains very much unresolved.