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2021 Pittsburgh Steelers Mock Offseason

The cap has shrunk. The Pittsburgh Steelers are at a crossroads, about to jump from the Ben Roethlisberger era to whatever comes next. It’s one of the most difficult offseasons of the modern era.

And there’s only one man for the job.

Me.

Ok, maybe I’m the last person who should be in charge of a moment in time like this. You’ve seen my results. Past offseasons of failed free agent signings, terrible draft strategies, and offseason results etch-a-sketched together.

But we’re back at it for the seventh year in a row. Time flies.

If you’re new to this, we’re using Fanspeak.com’s Ultimate GM simulator. The premium version allows you to play general manager, make all free agency decisions for a team, and then immediately hop into the draft to complete the offseason roster-building. I’ll have a link to it at the end of this article.

I get one shot at this. No do-overs. If I screw up, and if you’re a veteran of these, you know that’s often the case, you all get to point and laugh. And they’re one of my favorite articles to write each year.

Here’s what we’ll do in this offseason.

– Before free agency begins, restructuring contracts and making potential cap casualty cuts
– Ten days of free agency (aka dumpster diving for cheap stopgap options)
– NFL Draft, complete with trade proposals
– Adding UDFAs to our roster
– Creating a 90 man, training camp roster and depth chart
– Getting down to a 53 man roster
– Setting the Week One depth chart
– Adding a 12-man practice squad

For this sim, I of course drafted all seven rounds. We used NFL Draft Diamonds’ Big Board, which had the largest number of names and seemed like the most realistic draft board. We also set the trade difficulty to “difficult” which apparently tightens up the trade logic and makes it harder to swindle the opposition.

So hop in. Let’s go fix the Pittsburgh Steelers. And bring them a 7th Lombardi trophy.

GETTING STARTED

No better place to start than the beginning. Which means assessing our cap space. That’s the most important element of this whole project. Run out of money?  Game over.

I’m not quite sure how the sim calculate its numbers but initially, it has the Steelers just barely under the salary cap. Less than $500k in the black.

But we have a couple of moves at our disposal. The first is a move the Steelers should’ve done already. Restructuring Stephon Tuitt’s deal. That frees up about $8 million in cap space.

Then we have a tough decision to make. Vince Williams, coach needs to see you. This is life of the GM. You’re the one to have the conversations no one else wants. So in Old Yeller style, I have to let Williams go. Tear in my eye, I tell him he’s getting cut.

That frees up a couple extra million, giving us $12.9 million in cap space entering the re-sign stage. Not a ton but enough room and a pretty realistic figure in compared to what the real-life Steelers could come up with in doing those two moves.

Here’s what the rest of the league did aka “check out the New Orleans Saints restructuring every contract on the books.”

RE-SIGN STAGE

Here’s our list of free agents. Full disclosure: for whatever reason, the sim has launched a couple of names – Cam Sutton and Chris Wormley, most notably – into the ether. They don’t exist anywhere. Not on the roster, not in my list of free agents, not anywhere. So I just have to assume they got mad at me and never returned my phone calls. Tough way to start because I really wanted Cam Sutton. Our first real obstacle – what do we do at nickel?

Anyway, here are the free agents.

My philosophy is this. I get the chance to make one offer to each of these guys or else they’ll test free agency. I can negotiate once free agency opens up but I get one chance before the rest of the league can jump in. So no low-balling allowed.

So I start to make phone calls and work my way down the list. First one is to the player you’ve all been waiting to hear about. Punter Jordan Berry. My offer? A sweet one-year, $1 million contract, including a $100,000 signing bonus.

What does Berry say?

 

Accepted! One offer, one signing. Let me clear a spot for my “GM Of the Year” trophy.

Ok, that was easy enough. Onto the next one. NT Tyson Alualu. Crucial part to the defense and the only thing that could block him last year was his MCL Spain. But his age should keep him cheap and I can’t imagine he wants to go to a new team, move the family, or live out of a hotel for one season. My offer: 2 years, $2.5 million, $500k signing bonus.

His response?

Rejected. Ouch. Really thought Alualu was going to go for it. True to my word, he’s onto free agency and we’ll hope to sign him back then.

With Sutton out of the mix, Matt Feiler is the one name I want to retain. Shift him to right tackle, probably kick Chukwuma Okorafor to left tackle, and my tackle situation gets a whole lot rosier-looking in an instant. I know Feiler is going to cost more than the bargain bin offers I’ve been throwing out. But where is his true market value, especially now that I’m making him a tackle?

Here’s my proposal. 3 years, $12.3 million, $3.69 million signing bonus.

Feiler must be listening to John Clayton and thinks he’s worth “second best guard on the market” money. Too rich for me. But losing him is a problem.

Zach Banner, you’re my savior. Should be a layup, right? Little one-year deal, let him compete for a starting spot. Should be dying to come back. But the money is going to be light. 1 year, $950,000, and a 10% signing bonus.

Jordan Berry is apparently the only team player here. No one else wants to dance.

And with the rest…I don’t even make an offer. Hilton, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Alejandro Villanueva, Bud Dupree, James Conner. Any offer I could give would be insultingly low and I want to evaluate my options – and my money – in free agency.

So we head into free agency with everyone unsigned except…our punter. Such a punter thing to do. He’s a starter, at least.

I am a terrible GM.

Here’s a look at league-wide re-signings. Larry Fitzgerald continuing his NFL career. I would too for nearly $8 million a season.

Before we officially wade into free agency waters, here’s a look at our offseason roster. BJ Finney and Ray-Ray McCloud aren’t included in the sim since their signings just happened but I’m giving myself some grace and adding them.

QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
RB: Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds
FB: Derek Watt
WR: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud, Anthony Johnson, Cody White
TE: Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader, Charles Jones, Dax Raymond
OT: Chukwuma Okorafor, Anthony Coyle
OG: David DeCastro, Kevin Dotson, John Leglue
C: BJ Finney , JC Hassenauer
DE: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Henry Mondeaux, Isaiah Buggs, Demarcus Christmas
NT: Carlos Davis
OLB: TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith
ILB: Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen Ulysees Gilbert III, Tegray Scales
CB: Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Justin Layne, James Pierre, Trevor Williams, Stephen Denmark
S: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Antoine Brooks, John Battle
K: Chris Boswell
P: Jordan Berry
LS: Kameron Canaday

FREE AGENCY (DAY ONE)

With Berry inked, we have a little under $12 million in available cap space. Now it’s time to negotiate with outsiders. Fanspeak has a handy, helpful tool, like if Clippy was really into football. It outlines realistic contracts with free agents but I gotta say, their examples are a little…dated.

Ah yes, Demarco Murray and King Dunlap. That’s who all the cool kids are talking about.

For this offseason, here are the top free agents listed.

Anyway. I head into Day One with a couple priorities. One name, couple of positions. Tyson Alualu, I want him back in the worst way. Also want a slot receiver to replace JuJu Smith-Schuster, a slot corner because we have an tumbleweed rolling across the position and a veteran blocking tight end.

So I start with Alualu. Don’t feel I can up the offer too much because I need to count every penny to address those other areas. So I keep the structure of the deal but tweak the guaranteed money. 2 years, $2.5 million, $750k signing bonus (as opposed to $500k before). I submit the offer. We’ll hear back after Day One concludes.

Next up, slot receiver. Let’s get the Steeler killer – Ravens’ wideout Willie Snead. Sign him to make yourself better and your rival worse. Football’s equivalent of stonks. 

The offer? 2 years, $7 million, and a $2.1 million signing bonus. Seems reasonable at $3.5 million average yearly value, pushing the majority of that into the second year when we’ll have more cap space. Offer submitted.

Last one of the day. Who’s interested in a 37-year old blocking tight end? Just me? I give the Packers’ Marcedes Lewis a call. Offer basically the same deal he played on in 2020. One-year for $1.1 million and a decent $275k bonus. If he signs, he’s making the team, so I can pony up the guaranteed dough.

So there’s the three: Tyson Alualu, Willie Snead, and Marcedes Lewis. I hit the green “I’m Done Submitting Offers For Today” button that sends us into Day Two. And finding out who, if anyone, just became Steelers.

The results…

One for three. Snead signs, which I’m thrilled and frankly, surprised about. Alualu rejects me again and Lewis takes a – woah – three-year contract to play for Mike Vrabel and the Tennessee Titans. Good fit for their run-focused offense. Guess he’s playing until he’s 40. But welcome aboard, Willie Snead.

Here are the league-wide results on Day One.

Didn’t offer him but planned to talk to CB K’Waun Williams. But he’s off the board, heading to the Bengals on a well-priced deal. Bud Dupree secures the bag with Jacksonville, a six-year, $87 million deal to play for the Jags. Money I certainly couldn’t afford.

FREE AGENCY (DAY TWO)

The Snead signing shaved a couple million off our cap space now down to $9.1 million. Taking the new day in a new direction.

The Steelers have reunited with BJ Finney. How about another ex-Steeler calls Pittsburgh home again? With Alualu snubbing me, I ring NT Steve McLendon. He got his ring, now come back to where it started. Pittsburgh – where everyone will misspell your name (McClendon) again. Home sweet home.

He gets a one-year deal worth $1.15 million with a $345k signing bonus to be our starting nose tackle.

Two other names. EDGE depth is non-existent. Literally. There’s no one on the roster behind TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith. Go after veteran Kyler Fackrell. Big production just a couple years ago, 10.5 sacks in 2018, and had a respectable four sacks for the Giants in 2020. Still just 29 years old, too.

His agent is faxed over a two-year, $5.5 million contract with $1.375 million of that in the form of a signing bonus.

One more move for the day. No Hilton. No Sutton. No nickel cornerback. Big problems. Atlanta’s Damontae Kazee is one of my favorite guys on the market. 50% safety, 50% slot, 100% cheap. Perfect. The deal? 2-years, $4.8 million but just $960k guaranteed. Coming off an Achilles tear last October, can’t invest too much into him.

 

We end Day Two and await the results:

Kazee is in. Fackrell takes a much better offer to join Detroit while McLendon flat out says no. But we now have a replacement for Mike Hilton/Cam Sutton. That’s something, right?

FREE AGENCY (DAY THREE)

Today is linebackers day. We’re targeting inside and out. With Fackrell gone, our sights are set on another veteran option – Trent Murphy. He didn’t work out in Buffalo, a knee injury a few years ago slowed him down, but he’s still a big dude who can set the edge and bring a veteran presence to the EDGE group.

2 years, $5.05 million, $1.26 million signing bonus.

And in what would be a classic Colbert move, going after a former first round pick the Steelers liked coming out of school. Florida’s Jarrad Davis, drafted by the Lions but underwhelmed there. With a new regime, he wasn’t brought back. But he’s a good athlete and still just 26 years old. Depth replacement to make up for the loss of Vince Williams. He’s UG3 without the back made of glass.

He gets a two-year, $3.9 million contract with $1.17 million guaranteed.

And that’s our moves for the day. Hoping to hit at least one of these.

Nope. Two rejections. Back to the drawing board. And look what former-Steelers have found new homes.

Banner back with Cleveland. Villanueva paid by Washington. We’re losing free agents left and right, especially along the offensive line.

FREE AGENCY (DAY FOUR)

Despite those holes in the offensive line, I put my blinders on and focus on defense. Offensive line is strong in the draft so I can wait and place my attention there if I can sign some defenders right now.

Three offers go over. Increased deals to Murphy and Davis. And then I – admittedly – lowball the heck of of NT Johnathan Hankins, a classic run-stuffer but hopefully comes cheap in this cap-crunch offseason. Here are the figures.

Trent Murphy: 2 years, $6.2 million, $2.17 million signing bonus
Jarrad Davis: 2 years, $4.4 million, $1.32 million signing bonus
Johnathan Hankins: 2 years, $3.6 million, $720k signing bonus

If it’s a two-year deal, it’s for me.

Let’s advance the day….

 

Wow. Had no idea Murphy and Davis were football royalty. Despite the cap reduction, there’s still teams able to throw money out there I simply can’t. And both wisely accept more lucrative offers. Hankins rejects me and rightfully so. He shouldn’t even answer my next call and I don’t bother trying to further haggle.

FREE AGENCY (DAY FIVE)

It’s been two days and we haven’t signed anyone. Halfway to day ten and we gotta do something. So far, we’ve just signed slot guys. Slot receiver Snead and slot corner Kazee.

Remembering our offensive line is currently made up of Ben Roethlisberger saying “please don’t hurt me” every time he drops back, I go after a low-level tackle. It’s…not a great one. Former 7th round pick David Sharpe who possesses good size at 6’6, 330 with experience at both tackle spots. Possible veteran swing guy once I draft someone. It’s a low offer. 1 year, $1.25 million, 25% of it ($312,000) guaranteed.

Third time’s the charm on EDGE rushers. A younger option. But not a better one. Washington’s Ryan Anderson, 26 years old but with six career sacks across four years. None of them came last year. 2019 was a better year for him though, recording four sacks and five forced fumbles so there is a little something-something to work with. Beats what we have now…which is nothing.

Anderson is offered…you guessed it. Two years, $4.6 million with $1.15 million of it guaranteed.

One more offer for the day. Focusing on the offensive side of the football. TE James O’Shaughnnesy. Steelers brought him in for a visit in 2019 and depth behind Eric Ebron is poor. He gets a 2 year, $5 million pact with a $1.75 million signing bonus.

Let’s see if anyone bites.

Wasn’t a complete bust of a day. Anderson agrees, giving us some semblance of depth. Sharpe and O’Shaughnessy say no. And check out the other signings…

Frank Gore lives on! Fitzmagic continues! That’s fun.

FREE AGENCY (DAY SIX)

Down to just under $5.4 million in cap space. Not a ton left but we’re not done searching for help either.

I make two stabs at signing defensive linemen in replacing Alualu. Chat with McLendon again and a slightly increased offer to see if it’s enough to entice him. One-year, $1.5 million and a $525k signing bonus to go with it.

Also look up someone new. DL Christian Covington. He’s versatile but primarily a run-stuffer who would play nose tackle for us. A younger option than McLendon, he gets a little extra money thrown his way. Two-years, $4.6 million and $1.15 million signing bonus. Offer sent.

Then I realized something.

What if both accept? There’s no way to decline a deal if the player accepts. That’s bad business. If both sign, I might have just wasted money on one of them. Don’t need two nose tackles on this roster with 7th rounder Carlos Davis also hanging around.

Let’s see what happens.

Shouldn’t have been worried about getting two players to accept a contract on the same day. Never happens for me. McLendon waits for a better offer but Covington happily accepts. We always wanted Alualu but we have a new face at nose tackle. And he’s a fellow Canadian who can gush about Tim Hortons with Chase Claypool

FREE AGENCY (DAY SEVEN-TEN)

We’re about to wrap up free agency. Ultimately, my philosophy went like this. Use free agency to acquire cheap, defensive depth. Use the draft to load up on offensive talent.

On Day eight, I make a last-ditch offer to ILB Reggie Ragland. Just a one-year, $1.35 million contract to see if he wants to be a #3/4 inside linebacker. But he predictably declines. I put my feet up and call it a free agency class. It wasn’t perfect but we’ve added some key pieces.

Here’s a recap of what we did.

WR Willie Snead: 2 years/$7 million, $2.1 million signing bonus ($2.8 mil 2021 cap hit)
CB/S Damontae Kazee: 2 years/$4.8 million, $960k signing bonus ($1.92 mil 2021 cap hit)
EDGE Ryan Anderson: 2 years/$4.6 million, $1.15 million signing bonus ($1.84 mil 2021 cap hit)
NT Christian Covington: 2 years/$4.6 million, $1.15 million signing bonus (1.84 mil 2021 cap hit)

Total Cap Charge for 2021: $8.4 million

After the first ten days of free agency, Mike Hilton, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and James Conner hadn’t signed with any team. I’ll leave their future up to your imagination.

NFL DRAFT

We’ve filled some key spots in free agency. Getting a slot receiver, corner, #3 EDGE, and nose tackle are all huge. But man, there are still some serious holes in our roster. Especially along offense and the offensive line. My mindset heading into the draft is to do something Colbert almost never did. Trade down in the first. Get more picks, have more options, fill more needs.

But will that happen? And if so, can we stay in the first round to keep the 5th year option? Big questions on my minding as I walk into the Bill Nunn War Room.

Here are our draft picks heading into Night One.

First Round – #24
Second Round – #55
Third Round – #87
Fourth Round – #128
Fourth Round – #140
Sixth Round – #214
Seventh Round – #244
Seventh Round – #253

That gap between the fourth and sixth round, 140-214 is a looong time. Maybe we can do something about that, too.

Before the draft kicks off, I get my first two trade offers. One with the Eagles to move down, one with the Patriots to move up.

No chance I’m doing the Pats’ deal. Philly’s offer is interesting but I want to wait until I’m on the clock before making any decisions.

First Round

The draft begins and I wait through the first top five picks. Here’s how it shakes out.

Couple of surprises with CBs being taken at #4 and #5. The Bengals evidently never interested in protecting Joe Burrow, maybe panicking after Penei Sewell was swooped up by the Miami Dolphins. Knowing we’re not interested in trading up, especially after seeing QBs fly off the board (Trey Lance at #12, Mac Jones as #20) we wait until the league tells us it’s our turn.

Here’s how the top of the board looks at #24.

Man, Micah Parsons would look good as a Steeler. He’s awfully tempting. Najee Harris went at #18 to Miami but Clemson’s Travis Etienne is still available. I could sit here and make the pick at #24 and take a very good player.

But I can’t do it. This current offensive line, especially the tackles, are a mess. Defense is a luxury I can’t afford and I have to acquire a couple more picks to plug the cannonball sized holes in my boat.

Trying to stay in the first round, I call up Kansas City’s Andy Reid. My offer? Sending #24 and a 4th (#140) for their first (#31), a 3rd (#94) and a 5th (#175).

I submit the offer and…

….it’s declined.

It’s a similar strikeout one spot below with our ‘ol buddy Bruce Arians for pick #32. Rejects our offer. Guess he’s still mad about the whole “forced retirement” thing. Who knew?!

So I bite the bullet and look to move out of the second round. Losing the 5th year option sucks but we need the picks and it does make the draft class maybe a little cheaper to sign. That’s my rationalization, anyway. After failing to do anything with #33 and Urban Meyer’s Jags, we strike a deal with new head coach Robert Saleh and the New York Jets.

Here are the terms:

Steelers Send: #24 (1st), #214 (6th), and a 2022 4th round pick
Jets Send: #34 (2nd), #66 (3rd)

They accept. It’s a good deal for us. Probably an even better deal for the Jets. They now pick back-to-back, #23 and #24, giving them three first round draft picks. One used on future franchise QB Zach Wilson at #2, #23 used on electric WR Kadarius Toney, and our #24 on an offensive tackle, Texas’ Samuel Cosmi, to protect their newest investment. Home run first round and the media praises Saleh for swindling the Steelers.

But despite not having a first round pick, it was a necessary deal. I’m just kicking myself for not trying to pick up a 5th to bridge that gap between our 4th and 6th round spots.

We move onto Day Two.

Second Round

Starting things off with some action right away. Before Friday kicks off, we get two more trade offers. Take a look.

The Panthers deal is bad. But the Giants? It looks strong. Move down just eight more spots and pick up an early third. But I decline, wanting to wait and evaluate my options once I’m officially on the clock at #34.

That’s a big mistake.

Here are our selections for the rest of the draft.

When I get on the clock, I have a couple options. But I want to use Day Two to take a center, tackle, and running back. Picking up another high third round pick would go a long way in doing that. So I dial up the Giants’ phone and sheepishly ask for them to re-submit their offer. My #34 for their #42 and #76.

They decline. They won’t budge. I try to tweak the deal a couple more times, even offering up one of my fourth round picks, but it’s no use. I’ve been worked over by David Gettleman. The man who watched Daniel Jones for 23 seconds at the Senior Bowl and said “sold!”

Somewhere in his house, all Colbert can do is shake his head.

After poking around with other offers, including placing a call to the 49ers, I realize I need to make the pick at #34. It came down to a handful of names.

OT Liam Eichenberg/Notre Dame
C Creed Humphrey/Oklahoma
C Landon Dickerson/Alabama
RB Javonte Williams/RB North Carolina

After much internal debate, I went with Creed Humphrey. Sure, he has T-Rex arms. But no one is going to care about length when the guy starts at the pivot for ten years and makes five Pro Bowls. Humphrey is my plug ‘n play center, pushing BJ Finney to my top interior swingman, and making my line look a lot better. So long as you don’t pay attention to whose playing tackle.

So with the 34th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select: Creed Humphrey, center, Oklahoma.

Back on the clock 21 picks later at our previously scheduled #55. Get a couple of offers from the Browns and Titans but I’m staying put.

I almost chose Williams, the back from North Carolina. Had his name down on the card and everything. Then I took a long look at who we have at offensive tackle. Chukwuma Okorafor and…a whole lot of worry. So at the last second, I took the best tackle still there. That was North Dakota State’s Dillon Radunz. Play strength is an issue but at left tackle, his focus is still primarily on protecting #7. Our beefed up interior will get the run game going and Radunz will get stronger with a full year in an NFL weight room.

Dillon Radunz, offensive tackle, North Dakota State. Welcome to Pittsburgh.

Third Round

Offensive line has been thoroughly addressed. Now it’s time to add a running back. With the pick acquired from the New York Jets, we’re selecting at #66. To my surprise, Williams is still there. He’s a no-brainer selection. Bowling ball player with strong production and will immediately be our lead back. As soon as we’re on the clock, we make the pick.

Virtually, Santonio Holmes announces the selection. With the 66th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select Javonte Williams, running back, North Carolina.

Up again at #87. Here’s a look at the best players still available.

Couple interesting options. But we have a full-court press on upgrading the offense and specifically, the run game. Never able to address tight end in free agency, that’s our goal here. We take the best blocking tight end who makes sense here. That’s Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble. Underutilized in the pass game, he’s still a blocker-first and is going to help out in short-yardage and goal line situations. Maybe this is a little early but he fits what we’re looking for so well. And – finally – the Steelers have taken a TE in the first four rounds for the first time in a decade. Break out the bubbly.

So Tommy Tremble is our guy. And we end Day Two with our offense and run game in a much better place.

Fourth Round

Two picks in the fourth round. Haven’t forgotten about that massive gap between our second, fourth round pick at now the 7th round selection since we gave up our 6th in the Jets’ deal.

But there’s one more position I want to address. Nickel corner. Yes, we signed Kazee but trusting him with that Achilles is…a little risky, to put it mildly. And we’ve yet to draft a single defensive player. So let’s fix that. At #128, I take Oregon corner Demmodre Lenoir. He played inside/outside in school but will slide to the slot at the next level. Possible dime defender his rookie year. He’s the guy at #128.

Coming up on #140, we’re definitely looking to trade out. But I can’t find a dance partner. Spent a solid, literal five minutes trying to move out of the fourth round to pick up a couple of 5ths or at worst, a 5th and a 6th. Philadelphia? Rejected. Denver? They passed. Minnesota, even with us offering a future six? Nope. Check out all the offers I made (and at this point, I remembered to zoom out my screen so you can actually see the numbers).

With time running out, I throw up my hands and give up. We make our pick at #140. We take Auburn ILB KJ Britt. Total Vince Williams’ clone. Below average athlete but thumper in the run game, a team captain, and had a strong week at the Senior Bowl. Isn’t a flashy move but fills the hole the Williams’ cut left. Ideally, I wanted to move down. But being a GM rarely means you get everything you want.

Fifth Round/Sixth Round

Grab a book. It’s a long wait. We don’t have a single pick until the 7th round. Considered trading up but there wasn’t anyone I liked enough to give up another 2022 pick after sending the Jets a fourth in our first trade. Even knowing there should be a ton of comp picks coming our way next year, it wasn’t worth it.

Seventh Round

Final two selections. Still not on the clock for a bit, #244 and #253. By the time it’s our turn, this is the big board.

We don’t take someone from that list. For the third time in the draft, we go with an offensive linemen. Norte Dame’s Robert Hainsey. Versatile player whose lined up at tackle and guard and could probably end up learning center too. He’s tough, a strong run blocker, and as a feel-good story, a Pittsburgh native. High-floor player and more depth along the offensive line.

With our final pick, I almost went defense with an EDGE/safety. But Iowa WR Brandon Smith was too good to pass up. Been limited by injury and his production was just average, but he’s an athletic freak who made some highlight reel plays in school. Keeping the tradition of drafting receivers alive. Smith is a sneaky good pick here.

And with that, the draft is over. Here are our picks. Eight in total.

With just 70 players on our roster, we “sign” 20 undrafted free agents to round out the training camp roster. Here are the 20. Those with asterisks were the highest priority free agents.

Undrafted Free Agents

Isaiahh Loudermilk/DE Wisconsin*
Brendon White/S Rutgers
Ben DeLuca/S Charlotte
Zach Thomas/QB Appalachian State
Bryce Hargrove/OG Pittsburgh
Cade Stewart/OC Clemson
Jamar Watson/EDGE Kentucky
JaQuan Bailey/EDGE Iowa State*
Brandon Pili/NT USC
Jake Funk/RB Maryland*
DJ Turner/WR-RB Pittsburgh
Jake Verity/K East Carolina
Drue Chrisman/P Ohio State*
Tory Carter/FB LSU
Brontae Harris/CB UAB
Jack Backo IV/OT South Dakota School of Mines
Carlo Kemp/DL Michigan
Anthony Butler/ILB Liberty
Scooter Harrington/TE Stanford
Ethan Tucky/EDGE Cincinnati

Usually, I put together a list of tryout players for rookie minicamp. But those don’t look like they’re happening this year so I’m going to skip that section. I trust you’re as choked up about that as I am.

Here is our 90 man, training camp roster for when the team (hopefully) arrives at Latrobe.

QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins, Zach Thomas
RB: Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds, Javonte Williams, Jake Funk, DJ Turner
FB: Derek Watt, Tory Carter
WR: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Willie Snead, Ray-Ray McCloud, Anthony Johnson, Cody White, Brandon Smith
TE: Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader, Charles Jones, Dax Raymond, Tommy Tremble, Scooter Harrington
OT: Chukwuma Okorafor, Anthony Coyle, Aviante Collins, Dillon Radunz, Brandon Walton, Jarron Jones, Jack Backo IV
OG: David DeCastro, Kevin Dotson, John Leglue, Robert Hainsey, Bryce Hargrove
C: JC Hassenauer, BJ Finney, Creed Humphrey, Cade Stewart
DE: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Henry Mondeaux, Demarcus Christmas, Isaiah Buggs, Calvin Taylor, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Carlo Kemp
NT: Carlos Davis, Christian Covington, Brandon Pili
OLB: TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith, Ryan Anderson, Jamar Watson, JaQuan Bailey, Ethan Tucky
ILB: Devin Bush, Ulysees Gilbert III, Robert Spillane, Tegray Scales, Marcus Allen, KJ Britt, Anthony Butler
CB: Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Damontae Kazee, Justin Layne, James Pierre, Trevor Williams, Stephen Denmark, Deommodore Lenoir, Brontae Harris
S: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Antoine Brooks, John Battle, Brendon White, Ben DeLuca
K: Chris Boswell, Jake Verity
P: Jordan Berry, Corliss Waitman, Drue Chrisman
LS: Kameron Canaday, Christian Kuntz

And here’s how that camp depth chart looks. Offense, defense, and specialists.

Here’s how the roster gets whittled down to 53 for Week One.

QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
RB: Javonte Williams, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland
FB: Derek Watt
WR: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Willie Snead, Ray-Ray McCloud, Brandon Smith
TE: Eric Ebron, Tommy Tremble, Kevin Rader
OT: Chukwuma Okorafor, Dillon Radunz, Aviante Collins
OG: David DeCastro, Kevin Dotson, Robert Hainsey
C: Creed Humphrey, BJ Finney, JC Hassenauer
DE: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Henry Mondeaux, Isaiah Buggs
NT: Christian Covington, Carlos Davis
OLB: TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith, Ryan Anderson, Jamar Watson
ILB: Devin Bush, Ulysees Gilbert III, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, KJ Britt
CB: Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Damontae Kazee, James Pierre, Stephen Denmark, Deommodore Lenoir
S: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Antoine Brooks, Ben DeLuca
K: Chris Boswell
P: Jordan Berry
LS: Kameron Canaday

Here’s your 12 man practice squad.

QB: Zach Thomas
RB: Jake Funk, DJ Turner
WR: Anthony Johnson
OT: Brandon Walton, Jarron Jones
OG: Bryce Hargrove
DL: Isaiahh Loudermilk, Brandon Pili
OLB: Ethan Tucky
CB: Brontae Harris
S: Brendon White

And your Week One depth charts.

Your Week One inactives:

QB Dwayne Haskins
WR Brandon Smith
C JC Hassenauer
DL Isaiah Buggs
CB Stephen Denmark


Final Thoughts

This year went…ok. It illustrates how tough of an offseason this is probably going to be for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And why I’m not qualified to be the guy in fixing it. So many holes to fill, not a lot of money and just average draft capital to fill everything.

On the roster I created, there are some clear concerns. Tackle depth, edge depth, and safety depth don’t look great. If it were me, I’m scouring the waiver wire for probably at least a veteran tackle at cutdowns. Otherwise Aviante Collins is my #3 and I’m trusting a rookie like Radunz, who didn’t play football in 2020 save for one game, to be my Day One left tackle. Really counting on there being preseason games this summer to get him warmed up.

We’ve also done nothing to address quarterback for the future, kicking that can to 2022 when it becomes an urgent problem. But I think the Steelers will have a much better run game in 2021, even if it’s a low-bar and still be an overall competitive team.

As always, would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Here is the link to Fanspeak’s Ultimate GM if you would like to try your hand at the offseason. See if you can do a better job than me. Love hearing your results and how you fared as GM.

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