With the 2018 season completely in the books and 2019 staring us down just around the corner, it’s time to pause and take stock of the current state of the Pittsburgh Steelers by looking at their roster as it stands now, going position by position.
The new league year officially begins on March 13, and coincides with the start of free agency. Between now and then, the Steelers figure to make a couple more decisions about what the roster will look like, including the signing of a couple more of their pending unrestricted free agents. There are a few other loose ends to tie up before then as well.
Total Positional Figure: 7
Joe Haden: I don’t want to imagine what this cornerback group would look like without Haden the past two years, or without him this year. While he’s not the Pro Bowler he once was (Emmanuel Sanders bested him last year, for example), he’s by far the best they’ve got, and that’s pretty good.
Coty Sensabaugh: It’s hard to believe we’re here after Sensabaugh started 2018 as a healthy scratch, but he’s a must-sign after he became their starter opposite Haden. It would be an easy deal to do and you need that fallback option. He was pretty solid, all things considered, and gave up just .64 yards per snap in coverage, among the lowest in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.
Mike Hilton: His second season didn’t live up to his first, and the team even flirted with demoting him, but Hilton is still a pretty good slot option that could get better. He remains a strong run defender, but his missed tackles are an underpublicized concern. His coverage was not as strong this past year either, nor was his blitzing.
Cameron Sutton: 2019 is the year for Sutton to make a move. He showed his versatility in 2018, but now he needs to show that he can play one position well. He could compete for a starting job the way things are currently looking.
Artie Burns: The highs were never that high for Burns but he still fell pretty far by his third season. There’s no way his option is picked up and his roster spot is very much in question. Kevin Colbert himself said he needs to rediscover his confidence this offseason.
Brian Allen: Allen already missed the initial 53-man roster last year, though he was later brought back up from the practice squad. There’s no guarantee that he gets a third season if he doesn’t show something defensively with that 6’3”, 215-pound frame.
Herb Waters: The former Hurricane spent time with the Packers. Originally a wide receiver, they converted him to cornerback while on the practice squad in 2016. He missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury and then was waived with the final roster cuts. The Steelers picked the 6’2” defender on the practice squad in early October, so they know him a bit already, similar to Hilton in 2017.
Offseason Strategy: Re-sign Sensabaugh, decline Burns’ option, draft high, maybe twice.
Think this position needs an influx of talent? There’s a reason everybody is labeling inside linebacker and cornerback as their biggest needs, though now wide receiver climbs a notch higher than it was as well. They HAVE to add a player, either in free agency or the draft, who can compete with Sensabaugh, Sutton, and Burns for a starting job. It’s that simple. They’re not showing any interest in Kevin Johnson yet, who missed almost all of 2018 admittedly due to concussions. Alex Kozora has a good list of names in Bradley Roby, Pierre Desir, and Bashaud Breeland.