Top 3 2018 offseason needs for the Steelers

With the Steelers season concluding, it’s time to start looking towards the 2018 season.

While team needs became clear over the course of the season, the Steelers loss to the Jaguars in the divisional round of the playoffs especially highlighted these needs. The Steelers have a lot of tough decisions to make regarding these positions.

While quarterback could be considered a need, I’m going to focus on the glaring holes on this roster, which all happen to be on defense.

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Inside Linebacker

The discussion about the ILB position isn’t one that’s fun, but it’s one that needs to happen. We all hope that Ryan Shazier can return to this team in the future, but at this point, we don’t know how long his recovery will take, if he’ll be able to play football again, or if he’ll even want to play football again.

Because of all this, the Steelers will have no choice but to invest in the inside linebacker position this offseason.

The Jaguars divisional game highlighted why this is such an urgent need for this team. That game more than any game this season showed why this team needs a player like Shazier. The speed, fire, and playmaking ability that he brings was noticeably absent. The Steelers need to make an effort to find a player who hones these traits.

The draft seems like the most likely avenue for getting this type of player. Athletic linebackers ar every coveted and it would be extremely difficult to find this type of player in free agency. While the Steelers should definitely look into acquiring depth in free agency, ILB should be a top priority in this years. Lucky for the Steelers there is a lot of depth in this years class.

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The Steelers are in a tricky position with safety because of Mike Mitchell. While Mitchell has been an underrated player in this defense for years, his play waned over the course of the 2017 season and he gradually became a liability. Because of this, and his 8 million dollar cap hit in 2018, I believe the Steelers will cut Mitchell unless he agrees to a pay cut.

Regardless of what happens to Mitchell, I do believe the Steelers will target a safety in this years draft. While Mitchell is a leader and firey presence on this defense, his play in 2017 showed his prime days are over. He frequently failed to fill lanes in run support, failed to contain long passes, and he no longer has the athleticism to make big plays.

If the Steelers were to cut Mitchell, the team would still be wise to invest in a veteran. The Steelers failed to acquire safety depth last year and they cannot afford to make the same mistake this year. They made a last-ditch effort when they traded for JJ Wilcox, but he ended up being a liability on defense and on special teams and was inactive during the final games of the season.

While I appreciate everything Mike Mitchell’s done for the Steelers, it’s time for the team to start looking towards the future.

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Edge Rusher

It’s very annoying having to discuss edge rusher as a need. The Steelers have two first round picks currently starting on both sides and I feel it’s nearly time to give up on one of those players. While Bud Dupree has occasional flashes on the field, he has failed to consistently be an impact player.

As a pass rusher, he was nearly non-existent in 2017. Yes, he ended the season with 6 sacks, most of those were due to stunts or the quarterback holding the ball too long. He rarely won 1-on-1. While one may think “who cares how he gets his sacks” the Jaguars divisional game proved how the inability to win 1 on 1 will cause a pass rush to fail. Dupree was drafted to sack the quarterback, and he has failed at that.

Because of all this, I think the Steelers need to look into acquiring a new edge rusher this offseason. The Steelers have two routes they could go. They could draft a player, but because the team has other needs they may not be able to address the position until the mid rounds. They could also target a free agent, but the Steelers don’t have enough cap space to target a high-quality pass rusher.

Because of the circumstances, I believe Dupree will remain the starter in 2017, but the team would be wise to bring in some competition and acquire some fresh blood to try and develop.

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