Now that we’ve said goodbye to all of the prominent members of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster from a year ago, it’s time to introduce ourselves to the new blood. Many of them, of course, are draft picks, but the team also ended up picking up numerous players via free agency, the majority of whom we’ll likely be seeing in-season at some point.
Roster turnover is an inevitability in the NFL, but the 2021 season marked greater change than normal. Some of those adjustments will be accounted for internally, but it will also require the supplementing of a number of new components, which we’ll be reintroducing ourselves to over the course of this series.
The Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves with some cap space burning a hole in their proverbial pocket a few weeks ago in the wake of their release of veteran guard David DeCastro, who was scheduled to earn more than $8 million in base salary in 2021.
With the sudden addition of cap space, even after addressing the need to replace DeCastro with the signing of Trai Turner, the Steelers still had more room left to address what they apparently viewed as their weakest depth position: Outside linebacker.
While they were reportedly pursuing Justin Houston, who recently said that he came very close to signing with the Steelers before agreeing to terms with the Baltimore Ravens, they still landed a talent in Melvin Ingram, a former three-time Pro Bowler.
Even with that ‘splashy’ addition, however, second-year Alex Highsmith is presumably still projected to start opposite T.J. Watt, who should start practicing in earnest once he gets his massive new contract behind him over the course of the next week or two.
What the signing of Ingram does is give the Steelers incredible depth. Rarely have they had a third rusher as experienced and talented as him, with the nearest recent equivalent being when James Harrison was their third—but while the starting lineup was weaker, starting the likes of Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, and an early-career Bud Dupree.
There are questions about how much he might have left in the tank, both in terms of his age, now on the wrong side of 30, and his injury history, which has been frequent enough in recent years to be a concern, but the fact that there isn’t a burden of being a 17-game starter on him should go a long way toward keeping him fresh.
And toward keeping Watt and Highsmith fresh, as well, which is the main point. The other point is insulating yourself against injury and minimizing the drop-off in effectiveness in the event that a starter does go down, like Dupree did at the end of last season.