In this article I’ll be reviewing the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ offseason to date in three categories: Coaches, players and salary cap. This edition is pre-draft. After the 2014 NFL Draft I will publish an amended and updated version.
Exceptional coaching and continuity has traditionally been one of the Steelers’ strengths. Returning the same head coach and coordinators in the talented minds of Mike Tomlin, Dick LeBeau and Todd Haley can only be good.
Arguably the greatest addition to the Steelers this year, whether player or coach, is new offensive line coach Mike Munchak. The HOF offensive lineman will provide invaluable knowledge to a young and talented offensive line.
Danny Smith is also entering his second year as the Steelers special teams coach and is looking to improve on last year, he’ll be looking for a reliable punter after going through four in 2013. Famous ex-Steeler Joey Porter should help considerably with the linebackers as well.
2013 Grade: B+
2014 Pre-Draft Grade: A-
The departure of longtime Steelers LaMarr Woodley no doubt hurts, but rising star Jason Worilds and talented outside linebacker Jarvis Jones should be able to fill in adequately. The free safety position should be upgraded with the addition of Mike Mitchell, who replaces the aging Ryan Clark (much love to Clark though, a class act who I wish the best in Washington).
Cam Thomas (DT), Arthur Moats (LB) and Brice McCain (CB) provide nice depth at all three levels of the defense. None of these players, however, will replace Ziggy Hood. The Steelers may yet have a shot to re-sign Brett Keisel in the case that they can’t find another suitable replacement for Hood.
Darrius Heyward-Bey and Lance Moore are nice additions to a slim receiving corps, but neither is really of the same caliber as Emmanuel Sanders. Bruising back LeGarrette Blount replaces Jonathan Dwyer efficiently. Punter Adam Podlesh will compete with Brad Wing in training camp for the starting job.
2013 Grade: B
2014 Pre-Draft Grade: B
An area where the Steelers have struggled recently, the salary cap situation looks to be a little better this year, if only slightly. Extending Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller while reducing the total salary hit was clutch. Starting cornerback Ike Taylor taking a large pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh is borderline highway robbery as well. These moves are crucial to Pittsburgh staying competitive in Ben Roethlisberger‘s last few years.
Most of the free agents signed thus far have been one-year deals, which is nice because next year Maurkice Pouncey and Jason Worilds will have to be re-signed. Additionally, Roethlisberger will likely be looked at for an extension.
The Steelers aren’t out of salary cap hell yet, but they can finally see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel without blowing the team up. This is a huge improvement from last year when it was speculated that Polamalu and Taylor might have to be released in addition to Woodley.
2013 Grade: D
2014 Pre-Draft Grade: C-
Final “State of The Union” for the Pittsburgh Steelers, April 20, 2014
The Steelers are looking to be in good shape for a rebound year after a disappointing 2013 campaign.
They’ve positioned themselves well going into the draft. It’s vital that they get defensive line and defensive back help. Wide receiver should be the next priority, though they could probably make it without targeting one high in the draft, especially given the depth of wideouts in this year’s draft.
It will be an exciting year for the Steelers and if they can get the right players in the draft, they have the potential to make a few more Super Bowl runs before Roethlisberger retires.