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 by then. 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 2021 NFL Draft.
The Steelers had 10 starters or primary players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this offseason and have re-signed only five of them, those being JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cameron Sutton, Zach Banner, Tyson Alualu, and Jordan Berry. They re-signed a number exclusive rights or restricted free agents, chiefly Robert Spillane and J.C. Hassenauer, while signing Ray-Ray McCloud to a non-tender deal.
The deals of Ben Roethlisberger, Cameron Heyward, Derek Watt, and Eric Ebron were restructured, while those of Steven Nelson and Vince Williams were terminated, the latter being re-signed. Maurkice Pouncey and Vance McDonald retired.
Of note, the Steelers have added five players as unrestricted or street agents from outside of the organization, including three offensive linemen in Joe Haeg, Rashaad Coward, and former Steeler B.J. Finney. The group also includes linebacker Miles Killebrew and running back Kalen Ballage.
Position: Interior Offensive Line
Total Positional Figure: 9
Offseason Additions: 2
Offseason Deletions: 3
David DeCastro: DeCastro is now the longest-tenured member of the offensive line with the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey. While his play is rounding down entering year 10, he is still a high-performance-capable player.
Kevin Dotson: Projected to enter the starting lineup at left guard full-time after Matt Feiler left in free agency, Dotson is a powerful player who showed skills in pass protection as he looks to round out his game entering year two.
J.C. Hassenauer: Originally coming to the Steelers via the AAF, Hassenauer started four games last season: Two at guard and two at center. He will compete with B.J. Finney to start at center, along with any rookie that they may add.
Anthony Coyle: Added a year ago as a first-year signing, Coyle played some guard in the XFL, even though he’s listed at tackle.
John Leglue: Leglue has both guard and tackle experience, logging guard snaps with the Broncos in the 2019 preseason. Signed to the practice squad late last season.
Aviante Collins: Collins has the most experience of these last few players, logging one start at guard with the Vikings. His training is at tackle, where he would be more comfortable.
Joe Haeg: The Steelers’ biggest free agent, while he was likely signed primarily to provide depth at tackle, he also plays guard, and has started there, including last season due to injury.
Rashaad Coward: Like Haeg and most of these players, Coward is primarily a tackle who has worked some at guard.
B.J. Finney: Finney is a player the Steelers are obviously very familiar with. He will compete to start at center, having started five games there previously, as well as seven at guard.
Maurkice Pouncey: Retired after a decorated 11-year career as the Steelers’ center, during which he made the Pro Bowl nine times, including in 2020.
Matt Feiler: Departed in free agency after four seasons (on the 53-man roster; six in total) with the Steelers. He started last season at left guard, but started most of his games at tackle.
Danny Isidora: Signed late last season for depth off of a practice squad, Isidora remains a free agent. He worked out for the Seahawks recently.
Notes and Draft Outlook:
As we sit here, Alejandro Villanueva, the team’s most experienced tackle, remains a free agent, and one could argue that the longer he sits out there, the more likely he is to return. Getting Villanueva back would be a major boost to the depth, but even if they do bring him back for one more year, it shouldn’t alter their draft priority in adding a talented young tackle who will start — either now or in the future — as early as Round 1, such as Teven Jenkins, an oft-mocked name to Pittsburgh this draft season.