Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: ILB Mark Barron
Stock Value: Sold
With the unofficial start of the new league year, marked by the opening of the ‘legal tampering window’ three days before the new league year actually begins, the Steelers took the opportunity to make a small flurry of moves, including some moves to retain players as well as some to say goodbye.
Arguably the most significant departure would be Mark Barron, who after one season into a two-year, $12 million contract was released yesterday in order to clear some much-needed salary cap space after the Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bud Dupree.
Signed as a street free agent in 2019 after he was released by the Los Angeles Rams, Barron would start in nine of the 15 games he played in with the Steelers a year ago, totaling 82 tackles with four for loss, notching one interception, three passes defensed, a recovered fumble, and three sacks over 750 snaps.
Where oh where will they find those 750 snaps, now that they have let go one of their starting inside linebackers? Well, they just so happen to have a linebacker on the roster who played roughly that amount of snaps in 2017 and 2018 in Vince Williams, who will return to a full-time starting role in 2020 going forward as he pairs with Devin Bush, coming off of a rookie season in which he led the team in tackles and tied for second in takeaways.
While there was some doubt over Barron’s status—multiple beat writers incorrectly predicted that he would be safe—it was one of the most sensible and logical moves that the team could have possibly made from a fiscal standpoint after committing to tagging Dupree. It was the biggest cap savings that they could get from any position at which they already had a starter in waiting.
While the quality of his play improved over the course of the year, it was not at the level the Steelers were hoping for, especially in coverage. Still, his signing, at the time it was made, was a necessary one given the state of the team’s inside linebacker room at that time. They couldn’t have possible known, a month and change later, that they would be drafting Bush.