The Pittsburgh Steelers had quite the interesting season in 2019. One filled with ups and downs. Despite the injuries on the team, Pittsburgh still almost snuck into the playoffs.
Early in the season, Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury. As a result, both Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges started for the Steelers at the quarterback position.
With Roethlisberger expected to be back in 2020, Pittsburgh can shift their focus to building the roster around him. With the Kansas City Chiefs winning the Super Bowl, the next spectacle in the NFL is the free-agency period.
For the Steelers, they are currently standing at -$2.1 million in cap space, according to Spotrac. Of course, that will be subject to change when Pittsburgh conducts a few roster moves to give the team more money to spend.
Due to Roethlisberger nearing the end of his career, the Steelers have to build a roster that can win now. In light of that, here are three positions of need to target in free agency for the Steelers this offseason.
3. Inside Linebacker
Last offseason, Pittsburgh chose to sign veteran Mark Barron to a two-year, $12 million contract. Even though the deal was for two years, the Steelers could very well move on from him in the offseason to free up some money.
In his first season with the Steelers, Barron recorded 82 tackles, three sacks, and an interception. While those numbers look decent, it was noticeable that Barron wasn’t a great fit for Pittsburgh’s defense.
Given that, the Steelers should be targeting an inside linebacker to pair with Devin Bush. Also, it should be noted that Pittsburgh should scour the market for a linebacker that has experience and is a formidable run defender.
2. Tight End
Next offseason, Heath Miller will be eligible to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the Steelers. While it’s unlikely he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Pittsburgh wishes they still had a tight end like Miller.
Since Miller, Pittsburgh has been unable to find a reliable tight end that can be a receiver and a blocker. Luckily for the Steelers, there’s going to be quite a few tight ends available in free agency.
Looking at this draft class, there aren’t many surefire tight ends that are coming into the NFL. Therefore, it would be best for the Steelers to find their long-term answer at tight end on the open market.
1. Edge Rusher
The most crucial decision the Steelers will have to make this offseason is whether or not to retain Bud Dupree. The former first-round pick had the best season of his career with 11.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, 17 quarterback hits, and four forced fumbles in 2019.
However, those numbers can be a bit deceiving as Dupree benefitted from having T.J. Watt command double teams on the other side. Nevertheless, Dupree is likely going to receive a decent pay raise by the Steelers or another team.
If Pittsburgh allows Dupree to walk, they’ll need to consider finding his replacement in free agency. Even if they draft an edge rusher in April, the Steelers would be wise to sign someone that is a proven player as well.