The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.
The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.
How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?
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: How big of a priority should the offensive line be this offseason, and in what capacity?
While the Pittsburgh Steelers have arguably had the best offensive line in football over the course of the past five seasons, it’s fair to say that the unit took somewhat of a step back this past season. The impression is exaggerated by the woeful performance of an offense depleted by injuries and departures at the skill positions; nevertheless, some of the worst games the team has had in blocking over this five-year span showed up in the 2019 season.
Meanwhile, they have a starter at left guard who just turned 34 yesterday. Everybody is getting up there in age at this point short of Matt Feiler, though he’s far from younger as well. It’s been six years already since he was drafted.
Depth-wise, currently, they have B.J. Finney, Chukwuma Okorafor, and Zach Banner, the latter two, at least currently, believed to be strictly outside, the former strictly inside. And Finney is going to be an unrestricted free agent whom others may view as a starter. There are also Derwin Gray and J.C. Hassenauer.
Add in the waiver losses of Fred Johnson (especially) and Patrick Morris and you have to wonder if it’s not time to start more actively investing in this area. But how should they handle it? Does it start with re-signing Finney and releasing Foster? Do you let Finney walk, assuming you can move Feiler over to guard and have Banner or Okorafor play tackle? Either way, it’s hard to see both Foster and Finney on the roster in 2020.