We started this series with a little over two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Steelers had eight primary players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this offseason and have re-signed only one of them, that being Bud Dupree on the franchise tag. Unrestricted free agents who signed elsewhere were Javon Hargrave, B.J. Finney, Sean Davis, Tyler Matakevich, Nick Vannett, and Artie Burns. They re-signed a number exclusive rights or restricted free agents, chiefly Matt Feiler and Mike Hilton, as well as Zach Banner, Kameron Canaday, and Jordan Dangerfield on non-tender one-year deals. The deals of Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Maurkice Pouncey, Chris Boswell, and Vance McDonald were all restructured.
Also of note were the releases of Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, Johnny Holton, and Roosevelt Nix, and the retirement of Ramon Foster, as well as three significant signings in free agency, adding a new fullback in Roosevelt Nix, a potential starting lineman in Stefen Wisniewski, and a new tight end in Eric Ebron.
Total Positional Figure: 8
Offseason Additions: 2
Offseason Deletions: 1
Minkah Fitzpatrick: Acquired via trade during the 2019 season for a first-round pick, Fitzpatrick proved to be very much worth it, quickly becoming a first-team All-Pro. He is expected to be one of the building blocks of this defense for the next decade.
Terrell Edmunds: A 2018 first-round pick, he is now second fiddle to Fitzpatrick. One has to wonder if the musical chairs next to him last season hindered his development. 2020 will be a big year for the Virginia Tech product.
Jordan Dangerfield: To this day it amazes me that the only players on defense who have been with the team longer than Dangerfield are Cameron Heyward and Vince Williams. Just let that sink in about how long he’s been around.
Marcus Allen: A 2018 fifth-round pick, Allen went backwards last season, going from roster to practice squad, only returning to the 53 after an arrest at his position. He will get another chance to show himself, but for a former fifth-round pick who has already been waived once, his time is running out.
John Battle: Signed to a futures contract after the season ended even though he had no prior connection with the team. Some were high on him when he came out. It will be interesting if he can be one of those players who emerge out of nowhere.
Tray Matthews: A practice squad player for the latter stages of the 2019 season, Matthews will have an uphill battle on his hands.
Arrion Springs: An undrafted free agent out of Oregon in 2018, Springs has yet to advance beyond a practice squad spot, having done so with a few different teams. He played in the XFL this winter, intercepting one pass, before signing with the Steelers this past week. He can play cornerback and safety.
Tyree Kinnel: A safety out of Michigan, the Steelers recently signed him after having had a stint in the XFL.
Sean Davis: A 2016 second-round pick, Davis spent the majority of his career as a starter, though in three different spots. 2019 was to mark the first season in which he started and finished the year at the same position in consecutive years, but injuries robbed him of that chance in a contract year. His fate was sealed after the Fitzpatrick trade, and he signed a one-year, $5 million deal with Washington earlier this offseason.
Notes And Draft Outlook:
The Steelers have two players that they like as starters, but they have to know that the depth is thin. Some beat writers appear to be getting the sense that safety is high on the priority list as a position that they could see themselves using three of at the same time, as they have often in the past. With Vince Williams set to check back into the starting lineup, that is even more likely to be their desire.