Steelers 2017 Needs And Fits via CBS Sports


Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers rode running back Le’Veon Bell to the playoffs in 2016, and now they are faced with trying to re-sign him. The franchise tag could be coming, with the deadline for that on March 1. They are also hoping to have wide receiver Martavis Bryant back from his suspension, but don’t know whether he can be counted on to avoid testing positive again.

On the other side of the ball, the pass defense (rush and coverage) will be a point of emphasis in free agency and the draft.

2016 Breakdown

  • Finish: First in AFC North (11-5)
  • Total offense: 372.60 (7th)
  • Rushing offense: 110.0 (14th)
  • Passing offense: 262.6 (T5th)
  • Total defense: 342.6 (12th)
  • Rushing defense: 100.0 (13th)
  • Passing defense: 242.6 (16th)

Offseason shopping list

Need 1: Outside linebacker

James Harrison will be 39 and likely entering his final season. The Steelers need to find his replacement because Jarvis Jones did not work out.

Potential UFA targets (age, previous contract’s average annual salary)

  • Chandler Jones, Arizona (27, $2.04M)
  • Nick Perry, Green Bay (27 in April, $5.05M)
  • Melvin Ingram, L.A. Chargers (28 in April, $2.1M)
  • DeMarcus Ware, Denver (35 in July, $10M)
  • Julius Peppers, Green Bay (37, $8.67M)

Potential draft targets (ranking pos/overall, player, school, height, weight, 40, proj. round)

  • 1/18 Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt, 6-3, 230, 4.74, 1 (underclassman)
  • 2/26 Takkarist McKinley, UCLA, 6-2, 258, 4.58, 1
  • 3/27 Tim Williams, Alabama, 6-3, 252, 4.76, 1
  • 4/31 Haason Reddick, Temple, 6-1, 237, 4.54, 1-2
  • 5/48 T.J. Watt, Wisconsin, 6-4, 243, 4.76, 2 (underclassman)

Need 2: Cornerback

The Steelers need to find a corner opposite Artie Burns who can play in press coverage and handle man-to-man assignments, because the pass defense is vulnerable against elite quarterbacks.

Potential UFA targets (age, previous contract’s average annual salary)

  • A.J. Bouye, Houston (26 in August, $1.67M)
  • Trumaine Johnson, L.A. Rams (27, $13.95M)
  • Logan Ryan, New England (26, $693K)
  • Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo (27 in September, $3.02M)
  • Brandon Carr, Dallas (31 in May, $10M)
  • Prince Amukamara, Jacksonville (28 in June, $5.5M)

Potential draft targets (ranking pos/overall, player, school, height, weight, 40, proj. round)

  • 1/10 Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State, 6-0, 195, 4.47, 1 (underclassman)
  • 2/15 Teez Tabor, Florida, 6-0, 201, 4.50, 1 (underclassman)
  • 3/21 Marlon Humphrey, Alabama, 6-1, 196, 4.49, 1 (underclassman)
  • 4/23 Sidney Jones, Washington, 6-0, 181, 4.49, 1 (underclassman)
  • 5/34 Desmond King, Iowa, 5-11, 206, 4.53, 1-2

Need 3: Wide receiver

Antonio Brown is entering the final year of his contract and Martavis Bryant’s future is uncertain. It’s time to restock the position.

Potential UFA targets (age, previous contract’s average annual salary)

  • DeSean Jackson, Washington (31 in December, $6M)
  • Alshon Jeffery, Chicago (27, $14.6M)
  • Pierre Garcon, Washington (31 in August, $8.5M)
  • Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland (28 in June, $1.67M)
  • Anquan Boldin, Detroit (37 in October, $2.75M)

Potential draft targets (ranking pos/overall, player, school, height, weight, 40, proj. round)

  • 1/8 Mike Williams, Clemson, 6-3, 225, 4.50, 1 (underclassman)
  • 2/16 Corey Davis, Western Michigan, 6-3, 213, 4.48, 1
  • 3/19 John Ross, Washington, 5-11, 190, 4.35, 1 (underclassman)
  • 4/37 Curtis Samuel, Ohio State, 5-11, 200, 4.48, 1-2 (underclassman)
  • 5/42 Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma, 5-11, 175, 4.39, 2

Potential UFA keepers

  • RB Le’Veon Bell (25, $1.03M)
  • OLB James Harrison (39 in May, $1.375M)
  • ILB Lawrence Timmons (31 in May, $9.6M)

Roster review

Major coaching changes

  • None

Depth chart

Starters and backups are listed according to their status at the end of the season, but players who were starters before being injured are included.

  • QB: Starter — Ben Roethlisberger. Backups — Landry Jones (UFA), Zach Mettenberger.
  • RB: Starter — Le’Veon Bell (UFA). Backups — DeAngelo Williams (UFA), Fitzgerald Toussaint, FB Roosevelt Nix.
  • TE: Starter — Jesse James. Backups — Ladarius Green, Xavier Grimble, David Johnson (UFA).
  • WR: Starters — Antonio Brown, *Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers. Backups — *Markus Wheaton (UFA), Sammie Coates, Cobi Hamilton, Demarcus Ayers, Darrius Heyward-Bey.
  • OL: Starters — LT Alejandro Villanueva, LG Ramon Foster, C Maurkice Pouncey, RG David DeCastro, RT Marcus Gilbert. Backups — *T Ryan Harris, *T Jerald Hawkins, *C/G Cody Wallace (UFA), C/G/ B.J. Finney, C/G/T Chris Hubbard, T Brian Mihalik.
  • DL: Starters — *DLE Cameron Heyward, NT Javon Hargrave, DRE Stephon Tuitt. Backups — DLE L.T. Walton, DRE Ricardo Mathews (UFA), NT Daniel McCullers, DRE Johnny Maxey.
  • LB: Starters — ROLB James Harrison (UFA), ILB Lawrence Timmons (UFA), ILB Ryan Shazier, LOLB Bud Dupree. Backups — ROLB Jarvis Jones (UFA), LOLB Arthur Moats, ROLB Anthony Chickillo, ILB Vince Williams, ILB Tyler Matakevich, ILB L.J. Fort, *ILB Steven Johnson.
  • DB: Starters — LCB Artie Burns, RCB Ross Cockrell, SS Sean Davis, FS Mike Mitchell. Backups — RCB William Gay, *LCB Senquez Golson, LCB Justin Gilbert (released), SS Jordan Dangerfield, *SS Shamarko Thomas (UFA), CB Al-Hajj Shabazz, FS Robert Golden.
  • ST: K Chris Boswell, P Jordan Berry, KOR Sammie Coates, PR Antonio Brown, LS Greg Warren (UFA).

* Indicates player who ended 2016 season on reserve; & Indicates player released since the Super Bowl