5 Smoldering Questions on Steelers Free Agency

Photo via Steelers.com

By Hombre de Acero

The 2018 off season has already brought change to the Steelers with the next month promising to bring more, even if the Steelers remain quiet in free agency. But before any of that can happen, this corner of Steelers Nation must first resolve these 5 Smoldering Question on Steelers Free Agency.

1. In his post-season pow-wow with reporters, Steelers President Art Rooney II declared that “Its hard to play defense in today’s NFL.” While many will readily accept Rooney’s assertion, it was only 2 years ago that the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl on the strength of their defense.

Do you think the erstwhile Steelers President might be a little too quick to let Keith Butler and company off the hook?

2. At first word was there’d be no changes to Mike Tomlin’s defensive staff, yet Carnell Lake resigned and Johnny Mitchell got kicked upstairs. Once praised for “The Lake Effect” Lake has been a lightening rod for criticism of late.

Even if you accept at face value his explanation that his resignation was a choice, do you think the Steelers secondary will be better or worse off under Tom Bradley?

3. The day one free agency signings of Mike Mitchell and Ladarius Green were out of character for the Steelers. The latter move was a complete failure, even if you accept that Green played well in the 6 games of the four year contract he signed. Mike Mitchell’s offers more of a mixed bag, but he still was not the impact player the Steelers needed him to be.

The Steelers of course have obtained the services of future Hall of Famers like Kevin Greene through free agency, as well as perennial Pro Bowlers like Ryan Clark and James Farrior.

But none of these were first-choice options of the Steelers.

Could it be that the Steelers simply aren’t suited for Splash Free Agency?

4. William Gay fell to free agency as a salary cap casualty. When the history of Steelers cornerbacks is written, the top five will read: Mel Blount, Rod Woodson, Jack Butler, Ike Taylor and Dwayne Woodruff.

Where would you rank William Gay?

Feel free to offer a range as opposed to a specific rank but be ready to defend your choice.

5. The Steelers have offered tenders to Anthony Chickillo and Chris Boswell, franchised Le’Veon Bell and if reports are correct, Chris Hubbard will have signed with the Browns by the time you read this.

Pittsburgh’s remaining unrestricted free agents are Arthur Moats, Justin Hunter, Daniel McCullers, Sean Spence and Stevan Ridley. Restricted free agents Eli Rogers, Fitzgerald Toussiant and Greg Ducre (who????) also have gotten no offers and are unrestricted free agents.

You are Kevin Colbert: Which of these players do you bring back for 2018?

Bonus Question:

6. It does not take a football genius or a Steelers news junkie to know that Pittsburgh’s most urgent needs in 2018 are inside linebacker and safety.

Which position would you target for the draft and which would you target via free agency? Offer examples and defend your choice.

9 comments

  • Is something wrong with the comment section? Never seen it this empty for this long…

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    • cold_old_steelers_fan

      I don’t know about the rest of the regulars but I have been distracted by the drama in Washington. Every time I think it can’t get crazier, I am proven wrong.

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    • Wh7 not offer your own contributions?

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      • I’m more of a reader than a writer. My keyboard is absolutely rotten when it comes to rendering thought into text…

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        • cold_old_steelers_fan

          I would never blame my keyboard. It is usually my fingers that mess up. They fail to clean up the garbage my brain sends them so it looks something that doesn’t resemble nonsense. Totally my fingers fault.

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  • I’ll pile in late, especially as some of the questions are actually rather difficult:

    1) Yes, I do believe that, although there is no doubt that the NFL is doing everything to take defense out of the equation and make the game more like arena football.

    2) This requires little more than idle speculation, which is where my brain normally is…idle. I guess I come down on the side of it at least not being worse with hopes of it being better. But so much is involved, such as the play of the front 7, and, now…how the new pieces will fit into the group.

    3) I don’t think Colbert is suited for Splash Free Agency by nature and by plan. His ‘technique’ is to make late(r) additions with usually 2nd tier players to fill gaps, not necessarily to be stars in their own right.

    4) I have no idea as I would need a list of all of his predecessors. Anything else would constitute a SWAG and be indefensible.

    5) Well…they have signed Toussaint…I would consider Rogers, if and when fully healed, and possibly Ridley or Moats, depending how the draft goes.

    Bonus – As I write this, Bostic is signed and Burnett expected to sign. These are somewhat typical Colbert moves in free agency and I don’t think that they affect the draft significantly other than taking some of the pressure off of the NEED to draft ILB or S. I still think they will look there, but they likely would also like to look at OLB, CB, TE, WR, DL, OL, and maybe RB, but…not necessarily in that order. Yes…I know, they do not have that many picks.

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  • 1. I think there two things at play here. First, Rooney is right in the general sense. With the notable exception of the catch rule there has been a bias toward promoting and supporting offensive football. A consequence of that is it is much more difficult to play effective defensive football. It will be difficult and probably unlikely that defensive dominance such as was defined in the past is even possible.

    Second, criticism of Butler’s defense ignores two importance factors in its late season struggles the past two seasons; its overall youth, and the loss of two of its best players. In a recent interview JuJu Smith-Schuster acknowledged struggling with the rookie ‘wall’. Assuming his experience is not unique then it is possible that over the past two seasons players such as Javon Hargrave, Artie Burns, Sean Davis, Tyler Matakevich, T J Watt and even Mike Hilton may have been impacted. .More importantly, that defense wasn’t experienced and/or deep enough to simply take the loss of Cam Heyward and Ryan Shazier in stride. Joe Haden, like Vance McDonald, having to catch a moving train without experience in the system, Cam Sutton missing much of the season to injury. When all of these factors are taken into account, perhaps things don’t look so dire.

    2. I think the defensive secondary will improve regardless of who is at the helm. They are young, and players like Burns, Brian Allen, Davis, Sutton and Hilton almost certainly have their best days ahead of them. Mike Mitchell was often injured, but his biggest crime was that he wasn’t Troy Polamalu. A cautionary tale for those among us who believe that we can shove Ben, Bell, Bryant, etc out the door and get similar results from any old new guy. Not arguing against the notion of players reaching the end of the line, just prepare yourselves for the likely downgrade. With Haden and Burnett being acclimated and bringing experience and leadership into the system, and keeping in mind that the best secondary coach on the staff is probably Mike Tomlin, with just an addition or two from either free agency or the draft, and some luck with injuries, this group is in good shape.

    3. I believe I am correct in saying that in the 21st Century only one team has more Super Bowl appearances and championships than the Steelers. During this time they are the only team in the league to not have a top ten draft choice, nor a ‘splash’ free agent. Quick! Name the teams that have won championships in recent years based upon a key free agent pickup. So, my question is: Why should Pittsburgh concern itself about a team development strategy that hasn’t not proven to be more successful than their own?

    4. I can’t articulate a ranking, but I think a comparison to Deshea Townsend would be apt.

    5. None is absolutely essential, but my preference would be Rodgers as a good down-the-depth-chart option, Moats because of the need for depth at inside linebacker, and Ridley (Toussaint is already signed) because of the question marks at running back.

    6. With the acquisition of Burnett and Bostic you can now afford to focus upon the best young prospects you can get.

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  • Chewiesteeler here. Hi all. So glad I found you. I’m going to figure out how to get registered and see if I can get a few others over here.

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    • Eh, I just filled in the details below, and the site remembers me. Been reading since I wondered where Rebecca had wandered off to.

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