The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense is going to look a lot different in 2023 than it did a season ago.
Gone are long-time contributors including S Terrell Edmunds, CB Cameron Sutton, and LBs Devin Bush and Robert Spillane. The team brought back S Damontae Kazee and DL Larry Ogunjobi while also signing CB Patrick Peterson and LBs Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts from outside the organization. Still, Pittsburgh lacks a true slot corner as well as a capable starter at strong safety, having guys like Kazee and Arthur Maulet that can play in those roles, but aren’t suited to be 1,000 snap players in those respective roles.
While the team will likely turn to the draft in April to shore up the secondary with a CB and a S, it would be wise for Pittsburgh to bring in a veteran presence that has starting experience as either nickel CB or at SS to ease the load of a rookie draft pick being thrown into the fire with a bunch of new pieces on the defense. One name that sticks out that could fill a need at both spots in the secondary is DB Eric Rowe.
Rowe is currently a free agent, having finished up his most recent stint with the Miami Dolphins where he came to the end of a 3-year pact worth $14,750,000, putting his average yearly value just under $5 million according to Over The Cap. Initially a second-round pick back in 2015, Rowe came into the league as an outside CB, but has become more of a versatile chess piece during his career with the Patriots and Dolphins. He has logged starts at SS, FS, and as the nickel/dime defender in the secondary. Using his size and length to match up with bigger slot receivers and TEs in the passing game while having the frame and play strength to contribute as a run defender.
According to Pro Football Reference, Rowe has started 39 games over the last four seasons for Miami, lining up as the team’s SS, FS, and starting nickel corner across that span. He has played 3,197 defensive snaps over the last four seasons and has contributed in various roles for the defense, picking off three passes while deflecting 25 more. Rowe also has forced six fumbles during that span while recovering another, sacking the QB twice as a versatile defender that can play close to the LOS or on the backend in coverage.
Given the state of the safety market, Rowe shouldn’t cost more than $3-4 million annually on a short-term deal. He is 30 years old, but has been a durable, dependable player in the secondary for years, something that the Steelers currently need after losing Terrell Edmunds and Cameron Sutton in free agency. Rowe also was a pre-draft visitor to Pittsburgh back in 2015, meaning the team has done their homework on him during the pre-draft process. We should expect the Steelers to add at least one name to the secondary prior to the draft to give the team a capable starter with experience at either SS or nickel CB. Rowe could provide both as a low-cost, veteran option that can wear multiple hats in the secondary.