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: Outside Linebacker
Total Positional Figure: 7
Offseason Additions: 2
Offseason Deletions: 0
T.J. Watt: Watt is the only seemingly sure thing the Steelers have at outside linebacker, but even that largely hinges on him picking up where he left off at the end of last season as a pass rusher. He has 20 sacks in his first two seasons, including 13 a year ago, and he forced six fumbles, but took a step back in coverage, even while factoring in the fewer reps.
Bud Dupree: Dupree is now on his last legs playing under his fifth-year option. He either finally has an above average season or he looks for a new team in 2019. And the Steelers are paying a hefty price tag to find out. Oh…and if he even does have that type of season, they probably won’t be able to afford him, especially knowing that Watt’s deal will be coming up in the future.
Anthony Chickillo: Re-signed to a backloaded two-year deal, Chickillo gives the Steelers three players at the position with experience. He is also a core special teams player. He reportedly had interest in free agency from other teams.
Olasunkanmi Adeniyi: The 2018 college free agent had a strong preseason but spent most of his rookie year on injured reserve. He dressed for only one game and played about a dozen snaps to minimal impact. He needs to add special teams to his resume to dress in 2019.
Keion Adams: A 2017 seventh-round pick, Adams spent last year on the practice squad after a season on injured reserve the year before. He didn’t do anything particularly special in the preseason to indicate he will make a jump this year.
Robert Spillane: Yet another WMU outside linebacker (a former teammate of Adams’), Spillane was a futures signing in January. He had a good preseason with the Titans last year but didn’t make the team, though he spent most of the year on the practice squad. The problem is he’s limited athletically.
JT Jones: A former AAF player, where he recorded four sacks and 13 hits with a forced fumble, Jones was originally an undrafted free agent in 2017 who played for the Falcons, though only reached the practice squad.
Players Deleted: N/A
Notes And Draft Outlook: With Dupree in his final year and Chickillo’s contract essentially a one-year deal with an option year, both depth and starter ability remain a legitimate concern for the Steelers at outside linebacker. In other words, if the best player on the board can get after the passer, they shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.