We are only about two weeks out of the start of the new league year now, and that also means the start of free agency. For most teams, there is still a lot to do and to get sorted out between now and then, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are certainly no exception.
Considering they are one of the teams entering free agency with the least amount of salary cap space and they intend to use the franchise tag on an edge defender, it goes without saying that there are plans that must be put in place relatively soon in order for them to conduct business as intended and still have any chance of actually signing a player or two in free agency.
And when they do, what position or positions they end up addressing will largely be dictated by what the market allows for. They will try to fill holes, as they always do, before the draft so that they don’t feel compelled to reach for a position.
But, at least so far as Brooke Pryor argues for ESPN, where the team currently stands, the tight end position is the Steelers’ need heading into the NFL Draft about a month and a half or so after the start of the new league year. She writes:
The Steelers’ tight ends were woefully underutilized and ineffective last season. Much of that is injury-related, with Vance McDonald missing two games and the quarterback carousel failing to find a consistent rhythm with either McDonald or Nick Vannett. With McDonald as a potential cap casualty and Vannett as an unrestricted free agent, the Steelers best option to fortify the group is through the draft, and if the team opts to choose one with their first selection in the second round, they should have their pick of the tight ends in the 2020 class.
The way things are currently situated, it’s hard to see McDonald being a cap casualty because they really don’t have anybody else that they can seemingly turn to. Even if they re-sign Nick Vannett, he is a career number two tight end at his ceiling, and anything they get out of Zach Gentry is just the gravy on the mashed potatoes.
Still, even if all things considered, tight end is a very reasonable prediction. The only question is, with a relatively weak class at the position this year, if it will even make sense for the Steelers to make a prominent investment in draft capital next month.
Other positions to watch that Pryor listed include running back, guard, defensive tackle, and wide receiver. I would almost list these in reverse order in terms of prominence, though defensive tackle would take the top spot for me.