We started this series with a little over 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 2019 NFL Draft.
The Steelers had 15 primary players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this offseason and have re-signed a number of them, those being Ramon Foster, Tyson Alualu, Anthony Chickillo, Daniel McCullers, and Jordan Berry. Significant unrestricted free agents who signed elsewhere were Le’Veon Bell, Jesse James, and L.J. Fort. They re-signed seven exclusive rights or restricted free agents, chiefly B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler, and Xavier Grimble, as they await Mike Hilton’s signing.
Also of note were the release of Morgan Burnett, the trades of Antonio Brown and Marcus Gilbert, and three significant signings in free agency, adding starters at cornerback, inside linebacker, and potentially wide receiver in Steven Nelson, Mark Barron, and Donte Moncrief, respectively. Maurkice Pouncey also received a two-year contract extension.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Total Positional Figure: 3
Offseason Additions: 0
Offseason Deletions: 0
Javon Hargrave: It wasn’t necessarily a ‘breakout’ season, but Hargrave had himself a nice year, especially the second half, putting up a career-high six and a half sacks (he previously had four combined in his first two seasons). He had three and a half in a three-game span at one point. But more importantly, he more consistently gained pressure as the year went on.
He also had his strongest season as a run defender and assumed a larger role in the nickel defense. He should be due for a contract extension this summer, without question, especially since they have no viable alternatives at his position.
Daniel McCullers: McCullers spent most of 2017 on the bench, and all of 2018 dressing, but he was still on the sideline for the vast majority of it. The big man did have the best offseason of his career, but still was merely serviceable at best in his scarce playing opportunities.
Lavon Hooks: After posting a strong season, the ‘training camp veteran’ Hooks latched onto the practice squad all season. At age 27, he will be pushing to make a 53-man roster for the first time in his career. This is his fifth offseason, and the fourth with the Steelers.
Players Added: N/A
Players Deleted: N/A
Notes And Draft Outlook: As was the case last year, or at least should be, the defensive tackle position should be on the Steelers’ radar. The re-signing of McCullers is little more than a stop-gap, as even though he regained his backup role last season, he hardly played because he delivers little in the pass rush.
The Steelers only added Joshua Frazier last year. The player I was interested in was Bilal Nichols, but he ended up getting drafted earlier than I anticipated. It wouldn’t be a bad investment to use a mid-late-round pick here, especially if it’s on a lineman who is versatile.