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.
Deals for 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.
Total Positional Figure: 4
Offseason Additions: 0
Offseason Deletions: 1
Minkah Fitzpatrick: Two years with the Steelers and two first-team All Pro designations. Fitzpatrick is the real deal, and has had a transformative impact on the secondary, but he can still improve — such as in his tackling.
Terrell Edmunds: Labeled a bust even before the Steelers assigned him a jersey number, Edmunds has improved each year, so the point that even the majority of his detractors can no longer say that he is not a solid player. The question is how high his ceiling is — and how much longer he might be in Pittsburgh.
Antoine Brooks Jr.: A second-year former sixth-round pick, Brooks spent much of last season on the practice squad, but he did log significant defensive time in one game. The Steelers even when they drafted him, though, seemed to view his game as limited to a box defender.
John Battle: Having been with the team for over a year, Battle has a fair chance of making a jump this year simply due to the lack of depth. Originally undrafted out of LSU in 2018, Pittsburgh signed Battle to a futures deal after the 2019 season. He spent all of last year on the practice squad.
Players Added: N/A
Sean Davis: Gone now to the Colts, Davis first signed last year with Washington as a free agent. Washington released him, and he returned to Pittsburgh for one more year. He started the season finale due to an injury to Edmunds, but otherwise was reduced to special teams or mop-up work. Still, his absence is a blow to Pittsburgh’s injury protections.
Notes and Draft Outlook:
Also notable as it is that Jordan Dangerfield is not on the roster currently, and remaines unsigned. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he returns. The Steelers signed hybrid player Miles Killebrew in free agency. But they appear to be viewing him, like former safety Marcus Allen, as a linebacker.
But there is no doubt that the depth at safety right now is thin. The departure of Davis is a major blow in terms of providing them with quality depth should a starter go down. The only backups currently are two players with extremely limited playing experience. While they have two quality starters here, Pittsburgh certainly must address its depth, perhaps starting in the middle rounds.