Though expected, the national media wasn’t too high on what the Pittsburgh Steelers did, or did not do, this offseason. A financially-strapped organization making cost-cutting moves and losing valuable free agents.
In Brad Gagnon’s offseason grades over on Bleacher Report, he gave the Steelers an ugly-looking D+ for what transpired in free agency and the draft.
After doing little in free agency, Gagnon didn’t like the direction the team took in the draft. He writes their main priority should’ve been on upgrading the offensive line.
“No offense to Harris and Freiermuth, both of whom have high NFL ceilings at their respective positions, but the Steelers have bigger needs in order to protect 39-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger following the losses of Feiler, Villanueva and Pouncey, and Haeg and Finney just aren’t going to cut it.”
To a degree, that’s a fair point. Joe Haeg and B.J. Finney are far from long-time options. But that doesn’t take into consideration the fact Zach Banner was the team’s right tackle for not even one whole game last season. Or the fact Kevin Dotson is projected to be the team’s full-time starter at left guard. Or what Kendrick Green, the team’s third-round pick, could do at center. And the assumption David DeCastro will be healthier and play at a much higher level in 2021. Point is, there’s more changes to the offensive line than just the additions of Haeg and Finney.
Drafting Harris and Freiermuth clearly helps the Steelers’ run game and by extension, should aid Roethlisberger. Though I’m a proponent of building teams inside out, Harris was by far the best running back in the draft. His feature-back ability will be an asset from Week 1. Freiermuth is already arguably the best run blocking tight end on the team. In certain situations, may even get the nod over Eric Ebron as the lone tight end in 11 personnel.
Gagnon dinged the Steelers, of course, for their free agency losses. Bud Dupree went to the Titans, Mike Hilton to the Bengals, Steven Nelson cut because of the salary cap. There was a domino effect at those positions. There are serious depth concerns at EDGE, and Cam Sutton bumping to the outside to replace Nelson, which leaves questions about slot duty. And if Sutton is to move inside, James Pierre or Justin Layne will need to step up on the outside at right cornerback.
If you can take solace in anything, the Steelers did not receive the worst offseason grade. Gagnon bestowed that honor on the Houston Texans, who got a plain “D” for their chaotic offseason involving a new regime, possibly a new quarterback, and approximately 812 new free agent signings.
The rest of the AFC North fared much better. Cleveland received an “A+,” Baltimore a “B,” and Cincinnati an “A-.”