Three strikes the Steelers can nonetheless make to be Tremendous Bowl contenders, together with signing one former MVP

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The Pittsburgh Steelers one way or the other managed to go 8-Eight final season regardless of not having their franchise quarterback below middle for many of the 12 months. That is a testomony to Pittsburgh’s gifted roster in addition to the emergence of a protection that grow to be one of many league’s finest after the group acquired security Minkah Fitzpatrick by way of a commerce two weeks into the season.

With Ben Roethlisberger again within the fold, and with the addition of a seventh playoff group in every convention (the Steelers have been the seventh-ranked AFC group in every of the previous two seasons), Pittsburgh is anticipated to as soon as once more be within the thick of issues because it pertains to the AFC playoff image. That being mentioned, the usual in Pittsburgh will not be making the playoffs; it is attending to and profitable the Tremendous Bowl. Whereas the Steelers’ present roster could also be able to making a Tremendous Bowl run, the chances are at the moment stacked towards them. The Steelers, in line with William Hill Sports activities Ebook, are tied for the fifth-best odds to symbolize the AFC in Tremendous Bowl LV behind the Chiefs, Ravens, Patriots and Payments.

Whereas the preliminary waves of free company have come and gone, the Steelers can nonetheless make some strikes to strengthen their odds at profitable a seventh Lombardi Trophy. This is three particular issues Pittsburgh can do earlier than coaching camp begins.

1. Add veteran gamers to the operating again, receiver positions

Steelers basic supervisor Kevin Colbert usually does job developing a positional depth chart that features a younger participant, a veteran participant nonetheless in his prime, and an older veteran whose management expertise could also be as impactful as his on-field manufacturing. An instance of that is Pittsburgh’s present state of affairs at tight finish, because the Steelers at the moment have soon-to-be 30-year-old veteran Vance McDonald, 27-year-old Eric Ebron (the group’s largest free agent signee), and 2019 draft decide Zach Gentry.

Pittsburgh may use one of these symmetry at operating again and receiver. Not solely would this present a veteran presence at each positions, it might additionally give Roethlisberger one other dependable veteran to rely on in pivotal conditions. The truth that JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner — the group’s high receiver and operating again — are coming into their closing season below contract is but another excuse to accumulate veteran gamers at these positions.

The highest two operating backs at the moment out there are Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy. Whereas Freeman’s manufacturing dipped throughout his closing season with the Falcons (he averaged a career-low 3.6 yards per carry), the two-time Professional Bowler ought to nonetheless be capable to present high quality snaps in a extra restricted position. McCoy, a six-time Professional Bowler and former College of Pittsburgh standout, scored 5 touchdowns final season whereas averaging 4.6 yards per carry in a restricted position with the Chiefs. It is easy to check McCoy having an identical position with the Steelers, who haven’t been shy about their want to run the ball an increasing number of effectively in 2020 after ending 31st and 30th within the league in that division over the previous two years.

Pittsburgh has a number of attention-grabbing choices at receiver in the event that they select to go after one on the open market. Amongst these choices are veterans Demaryius Thomas, Chris Hogan and Josh Gordon. Thomas, an imposing determine at 6-foot-Three and 225 kilos, just lately mentioned that that he’s wholesome once more after coping with Achilles and hamstring accidents over the previous two years. Hogan, a former Patriot who had an enormous recreation towards the Steelers within the 2016 AFC Championship Recreation, missed most of final season after struggling a knee damage. And whereas off-field points have prevented him from staying on the sector, Gordon, when he is on the sector, has confirmed to be a productive NFL receiver.

2. Deliver in additional depth at inside linebacker

The Steelers have completed job this offseason filling vacant spots of their beginning lineup. Veteran left guard (and two-time Tremendous Bowl champion) Stefen Wisniewski was signed to assist substitute longtime starter Ramon Foster, who retired in March. Pittsburgh traded with the Ravens to accumulate defensive sort out Chris Wormley after Javon Hargrave signed a multi-year take care of the Eagles. The group additionally signed fullback Derek Watt to a two-year deal after releasing Roosevelt Nix, a 2018 Professional Bowler and 2019 group captain.

Inside linebacker, nonetheless, is one space that would nonetheless use some work. Sure, the Steelers nonetheless have starters Devin Bush and Vince Williams, however Pittsburgh’s depth at that place is sorely missing after releasing Mark Barron and permitting Tyler Matakevich to check the open market (the latter inked a two-year take care of the Payments). Pittsburgh’s present backups behind Bush and Williams embody Christian Kuntz, Ulysees Gilbert, and Robert Spillane. Mixed, the trio has made 16 tackles in 17 common season video games. And whereas every participant has upside and doable untapped potential, it would not harm to have a confirmed veteran backing up Pittsburgh’s beginning inside linebackers.

Among the many Steelers’ free agent choices right here embody Barron, Alec Ogletree, Wesley Woodyard, and Darron Lee. A former first-round decide who has began in every of his 93 profession common season video games, Ogletree recorded 80 tackles and 6 passes defensed in 13 video games for the Giants final season. Whereas Woodyard’s age (he’ll be 34 earlier than the beginning of subsequent season) may be one of many the reason why he is nonetheless out there, the 12-year veteran — who has 180 common video games and 110 profession begins below his belt — is an especially skilled participant who helped the Titans attain the AFC Championship Recreation whereas enjoying in a reserve position in 2019.

Lee, the 20th decide within the 2016 draft, began to indicate glimpses of his potential in 2018, when he returned certainly one of his three interception returns for a landing. After three seasons with the Jets, Lee gained a Tremendous Bowl with the Chiefs as a backup in 2019, making simply two begins in 16 video games. Lee may gain advantage by getting the possibility to work with Ryan Shazier, a fellow former Ohio State Buckeye who went from a doable draft bust to a two-time Professional Bowl participant.

3. Signal Cam Newton

Colbert just lately deflected stories that the Steelers had reached out to a veteran quarterback. Colbert additionally exuded confidence in Mason Rudolph, who went 5-Three in reduction of Roethlisberger through the 2019 season.

There are a number of the reason why Colbert and the Steelers wish to persist with Rudolph. Whereas Large Ben has alluded in direction of doable enjoying past his present contract, there is definitely an opportunity that he could determine to hold up his cleats for good on the finish of the 2021 season. If Roethlisberger decides to retire at that time, Rudolph could also be given the chance to exchange him, assuming that he makes the mandatory strides within the interim.

Rudolph can be nonetheless below a rookie contract, which makes him a really reasonably priced backup. He has additionally been introduced up below the Steelers’ system, working carefully with Roethlisberger, head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. Moreover, the Steelers doubtless need Rudolph specializing in his development this summer time and never on a place battle.

All this being mentioned, it nonetheless is smart to not less than look into signing Cam Newton, a former league MVP who remains to be simply 31 years previous. Whereas Rudolph ought to present marked enchancment this season, he didn’t, not less than on this author’s opinion, do sufficient in 2019 to enter the 2020 season because the unequalled No. 2 quarterback. At least, the Steelers may signal Newton with the caveat that he’s coming into a place battle with Rudolph to be the group’s major backup. It is secure to say that Newton would convey out the perfect in Rudolph, whose present competitors, Devlin Hodges, doesn’t actually have a assured spot on Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster at this cut-off date.

Whereas a foot damage saved him out for many of the 2019 season, Newton is simply two years faraway from a 2018 season that noticed him full practically 68% of his passes with 24 touchdowns. He additionally ran for 4 scores whereas including to his document for probably the most profession landing runs by a quarterback. And whereas there are outdoors questions on his sturdiness following final season’s damage, Newton’s current posts on his Instagram account seem to counsel that he’s wholesome and able to contribute on an NFL group. That group may very nicely be the Steelers, who would profit from having a quarterback of Newton’s caliber on their roster.

The Steelers pleasure themselves on having competitors at each place. For probably the most half, Pittsburgh has precisely that. One place they do not have that’s at beginning quarterback, which is one thing that is not accidentally; Roethlisberger is the group’s unquestioned starter, and it’ll stay that means till he both retires or suffers a dramatic decline in play. That being mentioned, there ought to competitors at it pertains to who’s his backup, which might finest come within the type of Newton vs. Rudolph.

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