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: Interior OL
Total Positional Figure: 8
Offseason Additions: 1
Offseason Deletions: 0
Ramon Foster: Coming off a bit of a bounceback season in 2018, Foster was rewarded with a new two-year contract that will carry him through his age-34 season in 2020. He remains an underrated cornerstone not just of the offensive line but of the team as a whole.
Maurkice Pouncey: Likewise, Pouncey is coming off his strongest season since 2014, before he broke his leg. The biggest difference? Play-to-play consistency. Mobility wasn’t much of an issue outside of his first year back from the broken leg. He still gets out to the edge without a problem.
David DeCastro: It’s quite silly to me that Joel Bitonio was named All-Pro over DeCastro this year. He was first-team last year and had almost as good a season in 2018, with the main difference being that he missed two games with a hand injury.
B.J. Finney: The Steelers already view Finney as a starter-level player. It’s just a matter of time for a starting spot to open up. Which is why they were willing to pay him extra on a second-round-level restricted free agent tender.
Matt Feiler: Feiler has primarily worked at tackle the past two years, at least once the regular season kicks around, and could start at right tackle. But even if he does, he’ll still remain a backup interior lineman. He even started to work on snapping in the summer.
Patrick Morris: A practice squad player all of 2018 after signing after the draft. Morris is the most natural center behind Pouncey and Finney on the roster.
R.J. Prince: Another undrafted free agent from a year ago, Prince is inside-outside capable and seems to have some fans within the organization. Still, this group is already crowded. Upward mobility is hard to come by because of that.
J.C. Hassenauer: Signed from the AAF, Hassenauer was the starting center for the Birmingham Iron for most of the season. The former Alabama player was never with an NFL team but was among the top centers in the short-lived league.
Players Deleted: N/A
Notes And Draft Outlook: As I look at this list, it’s pretty interesting to see how stable it is, returning seven players who spent the 2018 season in one capacity or another who are capable of playing in the interior. Still, even with this number of bodies, it wouldn’t be a shock if a mid- to late-round pick were used at guard or center. Foster is 33, and Finney is the only one other than Pouncey really comfortable snapping who has been on the 53-man roster before.