One free agent the Pittsburgh Steelers should still target this offseason
The Pittsburgh Steelers are still a playoff caliber team. That’s right, even after watching Le’Veon Bell walk away in NFL free agency and trading Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders, the Steelers are still one of the best teams in the NFL. That being said, every team has room to get better, and Pittsburgh is no exception.
Since the defensive backs that manned the secondary during Pittsburgh’s 2008 and 2010 Super Bowl appearances retired, the team has struggled to find consistency in the secondary. Just look at the situation that unfolded with Morgan Burnett last season. The veteran safety signed with the Steelers on a three-year, $14.5 million contract back in March of 2018. He forced his way off of the team just over a year later. Then there’s the Artie Burns dilemma. The cornerback was a first-round pick by the Steelers in 2016. Three years later, and Burns looks like a total bust who might not even be around for 2019.
The Steelers need a reliable, stabilizing force in the secondary. Luckily for them, there happens to be an underrated safety still available in free agency. Tre Boston spent the 2018 season with the Arizona Cardinals before becoming a free agent this offseason. The 26-year-old safety set career highs in passes defended and forced fumbles with the Cardinals. He also tied his career high with 79 combined tackles, despite only playing in 14 games. Considering his age and production, Boston has a lot of upside and no obvious red flags.
Despite issues with depth, the Steelers pass defense was still the tenth best in the league last season. The team only gave up 231.1 passing yards per game. Unfortunately, the team generated the 28th fewest interceptions in the league with only eight. Boston has eight interceptions in the last two seasons. During that same time, the Steelers leader in interceptions is Sean Davis with four.
Best of all for the Steelers, Boston would not cost them much. Both of his last two contracts were minuscule compared to some of the deals other defensive starters make. In 2017, Boston signed a one-year $900,000 contract with Chargers. His contract with the Cardinals was also a one-year deal, and it was only worth $1.5 million. Because of the massive amount of dead cap the Steelers have, the team is only in the market for bargain players like Boston. You can thank Brown for hampering the Steelers with just over $21 million in dead cap. The team has just over one million dollars in cap space heading into the season, which does not leave much room to sign key contributors.
Boston is primarily a coverage safety, something the Steelers are desperately lacking. Pro Football Focus gave Boston a 74.1 overall grade and a 78.2 coverage grade for 2018. Boston’s 2018 overall grade ranked 24th among all safeties. He actually performed better in 2017 when he finished with an 80.6 overall grade and a whopping 89.0 coverage grade. His 82.2 average overall grade from the last two seasons is the 15th best among all safeties in the NFL.
Boston is right on the edge of the Steelers price range. Signing him would remove the last bit of flexibility the team still has, but he could be a major contributor. If Pittsburgh signed Boston, it would probably be on a short-term deal. The team already has Davis and Terrell Edmunds on the roster, but Boston would be a great complimentary addition for the year.