Although free agency does not officially begin until this afternoon, we have already read of several moves made, or intended to be made. On the plus side of the ledger, the Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to re-sign safety Damontae Kazee and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi and will reportedly sign cornerback Patrick Peterson. He replaces Cameron Sutton, who reportedly intends to sign with the Detroit Lions while inside linebacker Robert Spillane is reported to be heading to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Even though there isn’t a starter at one of the inside linebacker spots right now, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat writer Ray Fittipaldo believes that the outside linebacker position is the biggest need during free agency.
That is the answer he gave in response to a question to that effect—specifically, what position is most important for the Steelers to add in free agency prior to the draft. Fittipaldo argued that they “Need a vet to be a No. 3 but they should draft a guy in the middle rounds who can develop into a No. 3 in short order.”
It should be noted that the chat was conducted before the news about Spillane, and that indicated Fittipaldo that he expected the Steelers to re-sign him.
The Steelers’ current No. 3 outside linebacker behind starters T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith is Jamir Jones. He had passed Malik Reed on the depth chart by the end of the season but that isn’t saying much. The team also brought back 2021 sixth-round pick Quincy Roche.
You certainly do not go into the regular season with Jones and Roche as the depth behind your starters. I don’t think there’s any question that the Steelers need a more dependable player for their third edge rusher.
Who that would be is hard to say. Steelers fans have debated the theoretical return of Bud Dupree, who has been with the Tennessee Titans for the past two years. They are expected to release him today, making him a street free agent. After two mediocre seasons clouded by injury, it’s hard to surmise what his market value will be.
There are a number of names out there, including some who would likely come cheap. But with the moves the Steelers are expected to make, they will have to restructure a contract or two before they can get even more done. And that’s not to mention consideration of the restricted free agent tenders, which are also due today.
Along with off-ball linebacker, other areas on the roster are certainly in need of reinforcement. That includes a second tight end, a third quarterback, offensive and defensive line depth—really, you can go down the list at all positions. It wouldn’t hurt to have a veteran slot receiver, either.