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: Which young defensive player do you most anticipate making strides toward contributing this year (who isn’t already starting)?
No matter how much a team might make use of free agency, they will still have to utilize the draft to secure depth and insulate themselves from injury. It’s okay to sign a splashy free agent, but you still have to have somebody behind him ready to go, either in a rotation or in case of injury.
The Steelers’ depth on defense really took a hit this offseason, but with limited resources, they will have to rely on young players growing into bigger roles, especially with the likelihood that any rookie will be coming in dealing with a truncated offseason process.
There are young players at every level ready to step up. Along the defensive line, you have Isaiah Buggs going into year two. At inside linebacker, there is Ulysees Gilbert III and Robert Spillane, with Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper outside. At safety, there is Marcus Allen. At cornerback, you have Justin Layne, and perhaps you can include Cameron Sutton as well, going into his fourth season.
At least one or two of these players will be asked to serve as primary backups somewhere along the defense this season, in all likelihood. Who among them are you most confident will be able to step up and deliver?