The Pittsburgh Steelers well underway with the offseason workouts at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the heart of the offseason, where hope springs eternal following a few months of pretty significant changes, in terms of both departures and arrivals.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Which veteran Steelers entering the final year of his contract do you feel is most critical to extend this summer?
Of the Steelers’ ‘starting’ players heading into 2019, there are four of them who are currently scheduled to be entering the final year of their current contract, and one key backup, which means that they would be slated to become unrestricted free agents in 2020—except in the case of Mike Hilton, who will be a restricted free agent next year assuming that he ultimately signs his restricted free agent tender.
Those five players, other than Hilton, are cornerback Joe Haden, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, free safety Sean Davis, and interior offensive lineman B.J. Finney. So, in other words, three fifths of the starting secondary is only under contract for the current season, which is not ideal.
Among the five players named, which do you feel is the most significant in terms of the team’s long-term (or near-term, say three years or so) success? I would argue that Hargrave is the most individually talented within this group, and also has youth on his side, but he also plays on a defensive line that already has Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
In other words, is he as important to the defensive line as Haden or Davis might be to the secondary? Right now, there are no strong backup options for either one of them should they get injured, playing positions that see every snap of the game.
Then there’s Finney, who could—some would argue should—be a starter in the near future. With Ben Roethlisberger under contract for the next three years, they don’t want to have a sudden drop in pass protection, so his value should not be overlooked even with Ramon Foster under contract through 2020.
I personally would eliminate Hilton simply because he has no alternative other than retirement right now, so extending him now is not crucial. However, you may disagree, and if you do, feel free to say so in the comments below.