The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?
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: Outside of the center position, what other spot on the roster would the Steelers be most likely to address in outside free agency, as things currently stand?
Barring a Ben Roethlisberger retirement, I think we have a generally solid handle on where the Steelers roster stands a month out from free agency. We also should have a pretty good feel for whom they are likely to lose in free agency, and whom they will have a better shot at keeping (hint: it’s the cheaper ones).
Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement shoots the center position all the way up to the top of the team’s needs list, because the only other center they have on the roster is J.C. Hassenauer, who is not even ideal as a top backup, let alone a 17-game starter (assuming the season does expand to 17 games in 2021).
Outside of that, however, where else might the Steelers be looking for help among outside free agents? With Vance McDonald’s retirement, could they really once again look to free agency to bring in some modest veteran help?
If they fail to retain either or both of Tyson Alualu and Chris Wormley, then some defensive line depth, particularly at tackle, would be needed as well. Alejandro Villanueva departing means they need at least one other tackle, but that could be addressed by retaining Zach Banner and/or Matt Feiler
At running back, they have Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, and Anthony McFarland, with James Conner unlikely to return. It’s hard to see a starter there. Obviously, cornerback would be a need if they lose Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton, but safety shouldn’t be overlooked, either. If they could retain Sean Davis on a veteran-minimum deal, that would be helpful. Otherwise, they might want to bring in somebody who could be the number three.