It’s that time of year again. Free agency is creeping up in just a couple of weeks, so before we get there, we’ll get going over the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, position by position, making an assessment of what kind of shape they’re in, trying to figure out how they might, or should, attack the roster on that basis.
We’ll be suspending the Stock Watch series during this time, at the end of which we should have more meaningful topics to discuss once we resume, since a lot more news about free agency and its ripple effects should be current by then. In the meantime, we go back over the current makeup of the team’s roster, and assess where they are strong, or weak.
Position: Interior Offensive Line
Total Positional Figure: 8
Maurkice Pouncey: Now with a decade of playing experience under his belt, Pouncey is firmly in the twilight of his career, set to turn 31 later this summer. 2019 was a big of a down year for the eight-time Pro Bowler, with an unusual amount of botched snaps, but there’s nothing suggesting he won’t rebound.
Ramon Foster: At age 34, with a dip in production, a $4 million base salary, a younger backup who is hitting free agency, and a tight salary cap situation, this could be a perfect storm that sees Foster released by the Steelers this offseason.
David DeCastro: Now established as clearly the Steelers’ most consistent lineman, DeCastro is the one player who can be trusted game-in and game-out along the line at this point with his steady play at right guard.
Matt Feiler: While he has 25 starts at right tackle under his belt, Feiler also has two starts at guard, and a lot of playing experience inside during offseasons. He could be a candidate to kick inside if the worst-case scenario occurs.
B.J. Finney: That worst-case scenario would consist of the team both releasing Foster and losing Finney in free agency. Finney has made 12 career starts combined at all three interior positions, including four totals starts last season, and has always played well. Now he hits the open market.
J.C. Hassenauer: An AAF refugee, Hassenauer signed with the Steelers after the league folded. He spent some time on the practice squad and was called up to the 53-man roster for the final game of the season after Pouncey was injured.
Derwin Gray: Thought he only played tackle in college, Gray spent a lot of the offseason working at guard. He was on the practice squad for all of his rookie year as a 2019 seventh-round pick.
Christian DiLauro: DiLauro is inside-outside capable like Gray. He spent around half of the season or so on the practice squad and was signed to a futures contract at year’s end.
A lot of things can still happen, but the salary cap makes things rather difficult, and no CBA would make it even harder. Even if Foster ends up a salary cap casualty, they may still not be able to re-sign Finney, depending upon what his market ends up being, even though he clearly wants to stay here.
If the worst-case scenario arises, Feiler would be the primary candidate to move to left guard, but he is also a restricted free agent and would need to be tendered at the second-round level. There’s a fair chance the team will go bargain shopping on the veteran market, and an interior offensive lineman could be in play for a draft pick as early as the second round, as their depth was drained with the losses of Fred Johnson and Patrick Morris last year.