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.
Position: Outside Linebacker
Total Positional Figure: 5
T.J. Watt: It was a breakout sophomore campaign for Watt, who finished the season with 13 sacks, the most by any Steelers defender in a decade, and the same could be said for his six forced fumbles, the majority of which were strip sacks, two recovered by the defense, one for a touchdown. He surprisingly had little to no impact in coverage last year, but his advancements in the pass rush, and his solid run defense, more than make up for it.
Bud Dupree: Four years into his career, Dupree, the former first-round pick, has only managed 20 sacks, including 11 and a half over the past two seasons in 31 games played. That’s not really good enough, but the team is still talking about him as an ‘ascending’ player, so for the moment his fifth-year option is likely to remain intact—in other words, he won’t be cut.
Anthony Chickillo: A four-year veteran, Chickillo is a very good special teams player but really appears to have peaked in terms of his potential for producing on the defensive side of the ball. He is the sort of player who can do a little bit of everything but specializes in none of it—other than hustle, which is always appreciated, and valuable on special teams.
Olasunkanmi Adeniyi: A 2018 college free agent, he made a splash in the preseason with three sacks, including two strips, that got him onto the 53-man roster. But he spent most of the year on injured reserve, only called up for the last several games, and he played in just one, drawing a hold. He didn’t play on special teams in the other games but was inactive.
Keion Adams: It’s not a great sign that the Steelers never bothered to call up Adams even after Adeniyi was placed on injured reserve. They played with just three outside linebackers until Adeniyi was brought back up.
Offseason Strategy: Look for cheap veteran in free agency, or hit the draft.
That cheap veteran could be Chickillo. Also, we’re dealing with the reality in which the Steelers are keeping Dupree, not cutting him, so they’re not going to be trading for Dee Ford or signing Justin Houston any time soon.
Still, if the opportunity arises for them to acquire a quality pass rusher early in the draft—perhaps not in the first round barring an extreme exception—it would be a wise investment, because Watt is the only player in this group you can count on beyond the 2019 season.