While the Pittsburgh Steelers still scour the free agent market for any sight of an affordable defensive tackle who wouldn’t fall flat on his face on every snap, the rest of the AFC North has not had difficulties plugging their gaps. When the Cincinnati Bengals opted to move on from Andrew Billings, replacing him with D.J. Reader, the Cleveland Browns swooped in and picked him up from their divisional rivals, inking him to a relatively modest one-year deal that Pittsburgh almost surely could have afforded.
Pittsburgh did manage to address its offensive line depth last night with the signing of Stefen Wisnieski, which at worst successfully replaces B.J. Finney as the team’s top interior reserve. Whether or not he will be regarded as the starting left guard remains to be seen, but that is one issue out of the way.
Meanwhile, the Browns continue to bolster their front four. Last year, they acquired Olivier Vernon via trade and signed Sheldon Richardson in free agency, pairing them with Myles Garrett (whom you’ve probably heard has been reinstated from suspension) and Larry Ogunjobi.
One thing that the line did lack a year ago was quality rotational depth. Throwing Billings into the mix alongside Richardson and Ogunjobi in the middle will help with that, and Billings should offer an upgrade to the team’s run defense as well.
He was, of course, a name that Steelers fans were rather attached to in the lead-up to the 2016 NFL Draft. While it wasn’t uncommon to see his name mocked in the first round, he actually did not get drafted until the fourth round, after Pittsburgh had already selected Javon Hargrave (that of course turned out to be the right move, though they lost him in free agency, signing a $13 million APY deal).
With Hargrave having left, some Steelers fans were hoping that now would be the time they would get Billings, who despite being four years into his career has only just turned 25 years old a couple of weeks ago. They will continue to see him twice a year, instead, rather than every day in their own building.
And so their search continues, at least as of this writing, for an option at nose tackle, which is currently occupied by career backup Daniel McCullers, who is earning a base salary of $1.5 million for the 2020 season. It is virtually assured they will have to address this at some point in the offseason, but we know one more name they won’t be bringing in, because he is staying in Ohio.