The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 offseason is now underway as of Sunday evening and the team has quite a few big decisions awaiting them ahead of the official start of the new league year in March. Last year the team made a few key cuts right before the start of the new league year as cornerback William Gay, safety Mike Mitchell and safety Robert Golden all had their contracts terminated. This offseason we’re sure to see a few more contracts terminated by the Steelers and the three players listed below are the best candidates for such transactions.
T Marcus Gilbert – After playing in five of the Steelers first six games of the 2018 regular season, Gilbert never played another down and he was a weekly listing in the team’s injury report from that point forward. While there have been some rumors that Gilbert’s injury was to his quad and not his knee, the team never officially addressed it as such. Whatever Gilbert’s injury was, it ultimately resulted in him being placed on the team’s Reserve/Injured list in the middle of December. In 2017, a suspension and an injured hamstring led to Gilbert missing 9 full regular season games and parts of a few others. And in 2016 he missed three games due to an injured ankle. Also, Gilbert has only played in all 16 games just twice during his NFL career. With Gilbert now scheduled to earn a base salary of $4,865,103 in 2019 in addition to being due a $50,000 workout bonus, the Steelers might want to think seriously about cutting him prior to the start of the league year in March. If cut before his workout bonus is paid, the Steelers would save $4,915,103 in 2019 salary cap space prior to roster displacement. Additionally, cutting him would allow Chukwuma Okorafor, Matt Feiler, and maybe even Jerald Hawkins, the opportunity to compete for the starting right tackle spot throughout the offseason.
S Morgan Burnett – The Steelers two main free agent additions in 2018, safety Burnett and inside linebacker Jon Bostic, both didn’t pay very many dividends for the defense throughout the season. Burnett, in fact, missed key time early in the season due to a groin injury and that resulted in rookie safety Terrell Edmunds, the team’s first-round draft pick, needing to play a lot of snaps a lot sooner than the team probably wanted him to. In total, Burnett played nearly 400 defensive snaps in 2018 after signing a three year, $14.35 million contract in March with the Steelers that included a $4.25 million signing bonus. Burnett is now scheduled to earn a $5 million base salary in 2019 in addition to a $50,000 workout bonus. Even cutting Burnett before June 1 clears $3,633,332 in 2019 salary cap space for the Steelers prior to roster displacement. Cutting him after June 1 saves $5 million and change. Burnett turns 30 in January and his best years are way behind him now.
OLB Bud Dupree – The Steelers picked up the fifth-year option on Dupree in April and that now means the outside linebacker is scheduled to earn a guaranteed $9.232 million in 2019 if he makes it to the new league year in March. While Dupree seemingly had a better pass-rushing season in 2018, he’s still far from being one of the league’s best. Dupree now has 20 sacks in his first four NFL seasons and well more than half of those weren’t high-quality in nature. Dupree is maybe a $4.5 million per season player and definitely not double that amount. If the Steelers were wise they would cut Dupree prior to March and go younger at the position. They stuck it out as long as they could with their former first-round selection and his ceiling has been hit a while ago. It’s time to try again either via the draft or free agency, or both.