Since the offseason started, the Pittsburgh Steelers have retained more than a half dozen of their own unrestricted free agents, while adding a handful — mostly along the offensive line — from outside of the organization. They have utilized Pro Days to add first-year players to flesh out their 90-man roster.
While they have lost or parted with some prominent players, like Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, Steven Nelson, and Maurkice Pouncey, they enter this week’s 2021 NFL Draft feeling as though they are well-prepared from a roster perspective, leaving them open to allowing the draft to come to them.
“Currently right now of the 75 that we have in this group, 50 of those are players that have played in NFL games,” general manager Kevin Colbert said yesterday during the team’s pre-draft press conference. “We look at our board, and we talk, we could play a game today if need be. Saying that, going into the draft, we’re wide open. We’re not going in looking for any one position, any one group or position. We’re going to be wide open to anything and see where this thing goes.”
The Steelers have had some positions that were hard-hit this offseason that have not been addressed, perhaps most notably tight end and cornerback. The first move of the offseason was tight end Vance McDonald retiring. They have had three defections along the offensive line, but they’ve also signed three. At cornerback, they have parted with two starters and haven’t added even a former college free agent to the mix.
But they do have five cornerbacks on the roster with playing experience, including three with starting experience when you factor in Trevor Williams, who spent about a week on the practice squad at the end of last season. They believe in Cameron Sutton’s ability to step up.
At least publicly, they feel similarly about every position on the roster. Obviously, they desire to improve the team between now and September. But saying that you feel as though you could line up and play a game today suggests that you’re comfortable with what you already have.
And this does echo the team’s pre-free agency comments. Most notably, with owner Art Rooney II saying that he would take the exact same team into next season if possible. Of course, they have lost some significant pieces since then, but it shows where the baseline was.
Needless to say, many, particularly Steelers fans, will disagree with this sentiment. The good news is that it doesn’t matter what they say. Pittsburgh will be adding players through the draft no matter what. And they had a good draft last year, without a first round pick. Hopefully they can provide an appropriate and even more impactful encore.