5 Steelers To Watch: Way too early offseason edition | Steel City Underground

Steel City Underground

Pittsburgh Steelers K Chris Boswell

With the Steelers offseason happening a little earlier this year, I thought it would be timely to look at some players on the current roster and how their futures in the Steel City may pan out.

This list isn’t all-inclusive when it comes to free agents: in fact, it’s quite the opposite! Below you’re going to find my takes on the five Steelers you must absolutely keep your eye on this offseason.

(And though the season is over for the Steelers, you can still get in on playoff action! Visit US-Bookies.com to find out how to bet on AFC and NFC championship games.)

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Antonio Brown

No list would be complete without AB, who went from having career day in Week 16 to being the hottest trending topic in football in Week 17 following a bizarre week of practice and reportedly leaving the Steelers final game at halftime after going inactive in a must-win situation.

A lot of the controversy stems around Brown being unhappy, but we’re still unsure what that means as we have yet to hear from his side. Nearly everyone else who is close to the situation, including Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, denies there being anything out of sorts with the Pro Bowl receiver.

Speculation everywhere suggests the Steelers may trade the soon-to-be 31-year-old receiver. That’s a situation to definitely monitor as the 2019 NFL league year begins in roughly two months from now. Brown is under contract for the next three seasons, with the next two being heavy cap hits for the team based on a recent extension Brown signed last offseason. However, if Brown truly wants out, we could see him moved.

To be continued!

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Ben Roethlisberger

Since Brown’s spat was reportedly with Big Ben, and said Big Ben is entering the final year of his contract, you can expect there to be some offseason talks about the franchise quarterback’s future.

There’s already speculation that the Steelers are working on an extension, and it’s surprising this topic hasn’t surfaced earlier as the team traditionally worked out deals with quarterbacks two years in advance, instead of one. However, Roethlisberger's last deal was also inked during a contract year, and not two seasons in advance, so the storyline has flown under the radar.

I don’t expect that to be the case for long, as the 36-year-old has stated he wants to continue playing for years to come. How long the organization retains him is another question, as they’ve picked quarterbacks in each of the last two drafts, perhaps in an attempt to find Ben’s successor.

That leaves little doubt that Roethlisberger's name will be a major part of Steelers headlines throughout the offseason.

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Chris Boswell

Boswell was already a hot topic of discussion before the season ended.

The 2017 Pro Bowl kicker ended his follow-up season, fresh off of a new 5-year contract, by missing seven field goal attempts, six extra point attempts, and going on injured reserve for the Steelers final game of the season.

Boswell is reportedly dealing with a groin injury and how he rehabs, and rebounds, will be watched with a careful eye during offseason workouts and training camp.

Pay particular attention if the Steelers bring in another kicker to compete for his job this season: in each of the last three training camps Boswell has gone unopposed. He joined the team in 2015 after a botched trade for K Josh Scobee didn’t work as planned. The team signed Ty Long in early 2016, but he never made it to camp: Randy Bullock filled in for an injured Boswell in 2016, and until Matt McCrane came in for Week 17 of this season, there hasn’t been another kicker alongside Boz.

I expect that to change this offseason as Boswell rehabs both from his physical injury and the mental/emotional pressure he faced from missing kicks in 2018. That and McCrane was actually signed beyond the 2018 season...

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Ryan Shazier

If there’s a storyline that hasn’t been highlighted much as of yet, it’s the status of Steelers LB Ryan Shazier.

Tragically injured in December of 2017, Shazier is now over a year removed from an injury that many claimed would cost him his professional football career. Shazier, however, has stated his desire to return to the gridiron.

Shazier enters 2019 as a free agent: but will the Steelers, or any other team for that matter, be willing to take a risk by signing him? And at what cost?

Following spinal stabilization surgery, Shazier could be spotted walking months later. His first public appearance saw him stand for his own standing ovation at a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game. He then, slowly and with assistance, announced a Steelers draft pick at the 2018 NFL Draft.

Shazier could be seen steadily making progress, including recent videos where he is now weight training. Unfortunately, his injury meant that he would miss the entire 2018 season. The Steelers kept him on IR and paid him the fifth-year option he was due: but will they retain him for 2019 or beyond?

And in what capacity will he serve the team?

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Le'Veon Bell

Okay, I know there are some groans here, but hear me out. Bell is still exclusive to the Steelers until the 2019 league year begins, so this “Steeler” to watch is a bit of a technicality.

He’s also been under watchful eyes since last year’s business season opened for the league, when Pittsburgh placed the franchise tag on him for a second consecutive season. That tender would’ve paid Bell $14.5 million, had he played in 2018.

He never showed.

That money returns to the Steelers, who still have options to once again place a tag on the former All-Pro running back. That may not be a pricey franchise tag, rather, a transition tag which allows them some leverage in bargaining with Bell on a new deal.

Wait: did I say new deal?

Yes, I did. You’re not seeing things, as several sources close with the team have indicated that the Steelers may still negotiate with Bell this offseason. Well I don’t anticipate Le’Veon returning to the team, he has in the past mentioned his desire to retire as a Pittsburgh Steeler.

However, that sort of announcement may make for a sticky situation with younger running backs James Conner and Jaylen Samuels, who both had great success playing in Bell’s place this past season.

This will definitely be a storyline everyone will be watching soon!

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  1. It will be interesting to see what kind of trade offers will come for Brown. If they are unacceptable to Rooney, then he will force Brown to play. If Brown refuses to play, he’d have to pay back something like 60% of his signing bonus. None of that will happen. Either Brown will make nice and stay, or Rooney will just take the best offer.

    Big Ben will be extended at least until Rudolph’s contract is due to be extended.

    I hope Boswell can get his body and mechanics right, because he’s clutch. I expect an extra kicker will be in camp as competition and insurance.

    I don’t see the point in tagging Bell. He’s not worth the franchise tag, and the transition tag would allow him to get a better offer the Steelers wouldn’t match. If the Steelers don’t match the offer, I believe they miss out on the compensatory pick. I could be mistaken.

    Shazier has also been seen jogging. I’m very pleased that he’s able to live a normal life. If he’s somehow able to play again, that would be amazing.

    • Joe Kuzma says:

      Boswell reportedly had a grade two groin strain – McCrane was silently signed through 2019 and should be in camp unless he is a trainwreck in offseason workouts.

      And yes, I don’t see Ben’s contract going beyond three seasons: if he finishes it that would also be something. He jokes about Brady playing north of 40, but who knows with Ben?!

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