Paul Zeise: Steelers have quietly put together start of an excellent offseason
Published in Football
PITTSBURGH — The Steelers haven't made any big splash moves this offseason as they continue to try to rebuild their roster, but that is actually not a bad thing. The opposite is probably true, as they have been cautious and measured in the way they have gone about their business and it appears they have addressed some of their biggest needs.
That's despite the fact that they haven't gone out and spent a bunch of money on big-name free agents. Nor have they pulled off any blockbuster trades or even really entertained any. And they have spent most of their time scouting and talking to NFL draft prospects who are likely to be there on the board in the middle of the first round when they draft.
It isn't a flashy strategy, but it seems to be a winning one and not all that far away from the way they have done business for the most part for the past 50 years.
There are some seasons that they should have been more aggressive in free agency in terms of going after stars or players who are highly paid. There have been some seasons when I thought they needed to maybe even overpay a little to win a bidding war for a player or two who might put them over the top.
This isn't one of them because this Steelers team needs depth more than anything else. It is true they needed to rebuild their inside linebacker group, which they have done in free agency, but for the most part, this isn't a team lacking star power, except at cornerback and receiver.
They have even flirted with former outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who would be a great addition as a depth player and also an insurance policy if one of the two starters gets hurt.
The moves the Steelers have made, though, have addressed depth at safety, cornerback, offensive line, inside linebacker and even defensive line, which means there are very few areas they need to address in the draft.
I would expect they will probably dip into free agency to find a veteran receiver, similar to the way they went and got cornerback Patrick Peterson. They signed him for two years, $14 million, which means they got him at a very good price and they filled at least some of their need at corner.
Peterson is 32 and has lost a little bit of a step, but he is still a more than capable corner and, if you listen to Mike Tomlin, versatile enough to play some safety, as well.
He clearly isn't the lockdown star he was three or four years ago, but he is still good. And in signing him, the Steelers don't have to reach for a cornerback in the first round if the player they want is not there. That is why I think they will sign a veteran receiver as it gives them some flexibility with their first and second picks, as well.
Actually, the theme of the Steelers' offseason has been to create as much depth at as many positions as possible to give Omar Khan, Andy Weidl and company as many options on draft day.
It also frees them from having to try to fill needs with their first three picks but rather take the highest-impact players available when they draft. The Steelers have three picks in the first 50 in this draft (17, 32, 49), so they should have a chance to get impact players at all three picks.
And it also frees them up to take a stud offensive tackle at No. 17 if one falls to them. I know what coach Mike Tomlin and Khan have said about their current tackles and how much they like them, but that is a position that probably could use an upgrade if one is available.
The three offensive linemen the Steelers have signed in free agency — Le'Raven Clark, Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig — may or not be able to win starting jobs, but adding them has made the unit deeper and more competitive. Re-signing Larry Ogunjobi and Breiden Fehoko means the defensive line is a little deeper and more stable.
The Steelers could probably use one more inside linebacker, preferably one that is solid in pass coverage, but that could be addressed in the draft, as well.
People do mock drafts all the time and I often get asked who I think the Steelers should take. I usually say "the best player on the board" because the draft is such a crap shoot. I often think, though, that is a foolish draft strategy because the draft should fill needs.
This season, however, thanks to the solid work in free agency of Khan and Weidl, I really do think that is the strategy they should employ. They have added the depth they have needed at pretty much every spot. Now, they just need to go hunting impact players to help get the team back to the playoffs.
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