Steelers Offense Faces Question Marks At Five Positions During The Offseason

The offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers now enters its second week and there still is a long wait until the start of free agency and the draft. Over the course of the next 10-15 weeks the team will be facing question marks at five positions on offense that need to be answered and below is a recap of those five positions.

Starting Left Guard – The Steelers have spent four early draft picks on offensive linemen over the course of the last three drafts. Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert will man the two tackles positions should Max Starks not be brought back, while David DeCastro will handle the right guard spot alongside center Maurkice Pouncey. That leaves the left guard spot as the only position with a question mark as we sit here in January. Willie Colon is under contract, but there is some uncertainty as to whether or not he will be retained after winding up on injured reserve for a third consecutive season. Ramon Foster is an unrestricted free agent and there is no guarantee that he will return either. The good news is that we should know the future of Colon as it relates to 2013 within 10 weeks. Should both he and Foster not return, however, that would leave Kelvin Beachum as a prime candidate to battle for the spot. The Steelers might add a guard late during the draft, but I would not expect that to happen in the first five rounds if they do.

Starting Running Back – Both Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman are restricted free agents who should be easily retained with tenders. Rashard Mendenhall looks as if he has had his unrestricted bags packed for some time now and it will be very surprising if he returns.  Should either Dwyer or Redman be considered starters? Do they get a pass for last season because of the play of the offensive line? I think it is safe to say that this position will be addressed in the draft at some point. First round? I don\’t think so, but any round after that certainly seems to be a possibility at this point. I suspect that we are set for a good training camp this year as I just do not see them adding a quality starter-type during free agency.

Third Wide Receiver – Like Mendenhall, Mike Wallace is eager to test free agency and is unlikely to be back in 2013. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders will of course be the starters but there is no clarity as to who the third receiver will be at this time. Jerricho Cotchery is under contract, but his most productive days are long behind him. Since coming to Pittsburgh he has all of 33 regular season receptions and does not play on special teams. At best he a slot receiver that can be used to spell Sanders on occasion. Plaxico Burress is an unrestricted free agent who will turn 36 in August. While he is certainly still a player that can be used in the red zone, he is not one that can be relied heavily on outside of that. He can no longer stretch the field and is a liability in the blocking department. Like Cotchery, he also doesn\’t play on special teams. The Steelers in all likelihood will draft at least one receiver in April and might also try to pluck a younger free agent off the scrap pile later on in free agency in addition.

Backup Tight End – You can almost certainly plan on Heath Miller starting off training camp on the PUP list with his surgically repaired knee and we must keep our fingers crossed that he will be ready to go by the start of the season. Miller was a huge part of the offense in 2012 and the thought of him possibly missing some games at the start of the season is a scary one. David Paulson will of course be back but he showed no signs that he can be the heir apparent to Miller. His run blocking needs major improvement as does his ability to gain separation out in routes. Leonard Pope is an unrestricted free agent and a player that was barely used in 2012 with good reason. David Johnson, who is mainly considered a fullback, is also an unrestricted free agent and not really an option here. At this point you have to think that the Steelers will address this position in the top half of the draft. They almost have to thanks to Miller going down. You think that they regret turning Weslye Saunders loose now?

Backup Quarterback – The Steelers can\’t put themselves in the same position that they were last season as it relates to the backup quarterback position. Byron Leftwich, an unrestricted free agent, can\’t seem to make it through a season healthy, and Charlie Batch, also an unrestricted free agent, is 38 years old. The Steelers might decide to keep one of the two as the No.3 quarterback, but neither should be considered as the backup to Ben Roethlisberger. They need to either draft one or sign one on the cheap via free agency. Perhaps even do both.

  • Mikey Hoje

    AND 5 is the maximum number possible, wow, what a dark season we had at 8-8… I hope we recover in 2013.

  • Cols714

    I think Colon will be back.
    I hope Wallace will be back.
    Mendenhall I care less about, but he was good when healthy.

  • zyzak

    They need to solve some of these for 2013 the others in 2014. This will be a two year project. The Ravens are in the same pickle on defense

  • Kysteeler

    We’ve got to get some WRs that play special teams this year, its just like wasting roster spots. I would like to grab a decent #2 TE either in the draft or FA.

  • I said at the time turning Saunders loose to keep Pope was a huge mistake. I hope I am wrong…

    I am also afraid that they intend to dump Cotch in favor of Plax. While Plax is a great redzone option, like the article said, he can’t be used heavily while I think Cotch still can.

  • I would be pretty surprised if any came back. If the Cap weren’t such an issue, I would say Colon has the best chance, but they can’t afford to keep paying him to sit.

  • opie1280

    Not to mention ILB, OLB and FS, SS depth…a lot of holes on this team.

  • LucasY59

    The interesting thing about 2014 is the compensatory picks the Steelers could recieve for Mendenhall, Wallace, maybe even Foster, and if things go really bad Lewis. could potentially be 4 third rounders, especially since the Steelers do not pick up big name free agents, however I would rather see all of them back with the Steelers (other than Mendenhall)

  • LucasY59

    Other FA players the Steelers may not bring back, but could possibly start/get decent playing that would help with getting comp picks are Starks, Hampton, Foote, Legursky, maybe Plaxico and Will Allen?

  • Phil Heidenreich

    Any thoughts on getting Da’ Rick Rogers in the 2nd-3rd? Would be high risk/high reward type ala Janoris Jenkins of the Rams this year. At some point I’d like to see that type of pick. Ta’amu doesn’t count and should probably be cut if he doesn’t show well in camp.

  • JT

    I think people are really over blowing that for the past year. He settled in well at guard, and lasted the majority of the season.

  • JT

    I just want people who tackle on ST.

  • Phil Heidenreich

    The majority of the season is nice and all, but we like Super Bowls, no? Those are made late in the season, long after Colon gets hurt.

  • Phil Heidenreich

    Also, Kelce would be a great fit at TE out of Cincinnati. Probably a 2nd-3 rd rounder with great size, hands, and blocking ability.

  • zyzak

    Saunders was too dumb to learn the plays

  • Bob Loblaw

    They need to let Colon go. He gets hurt and penalized often. He was good for our run game, but finding a young guard to replace him shouldn’t be too hard (might have him on the team already in Beachum).

    I can’t help but think we’re going to have some middling compensatory picks. Wouldn’t mind seeing a tall receiver picked up for Ben. Probably wouldn’t start right away, but some depth is going to be needed at receiver as I’m not sure they’ll hang on to Burress as his minimum as a vet is a little high for what he brings to the table.

  • RW

    This draft would probably make you happy:

    1) Matt Elam – SS, Florida
    2) Sean Porter – OLB, Texas A&M
    3) T.J. McDonald – FS, Southern Cal
    4) Nico Johnson – ILB, Alabama
    5) Ray Graham – HB, Pitt
    6a) Tyrann Mathieu – CB
    6b) Marquess Wilson – WR, Washington St.
    7) Craig Roh – DE, Michigan

    Not so sure about Sean Porter, but he could be good.

  • Phil Heidenreich

    Anyone still dying to get Te’o after this first half? One game’s surely not the best judge but he’s playing talent that’s basically NFL bound, getting pushed around and run over. People are too sentimental about Golden Domers.

  • LucasY59

    I think Porter is a good player, but more of a 4-3 OLB not really a 3-4, kinda like Sean Spence last year just a little taller 6-2 230#s, I like your picks but McDonald, Mathieu, and Wilson might not be available

  • Thomas

    I think they should just make Decastro the Left guard and keep Foster on the right, Decastro is suposedly the best pulling guard why not have him pull to our strong side, and if he’s a such a good pass blocker he should get their best rusher on twists etc when the ROLB or RE loops in.

  • nicolaisim

    Love the Elam and McDonald picks. Biggest need in my mind by far.
    However Ray Graham is not the kind of RB we need.
    I think Montee Ball will get a great (deserving) look. If lucky, he could still be available with the 3rd pick.

    My top 5:

    1) Matt Elam – SS, Florida
    2) Brandon Jenkins – OLB, Florida State
    3) Montee Ball – RB, Wisconsin
    4) Landry Jones – QB, Oklahoma (he will probably go in the 3rd though)
    5) Tyrann Mathieu – DB

  • grw1960

    The Steelers NEED a better all around # 1 RB .

    The Steelers Need a # 1 WR that make all the catches when they have an opportunity to do so.

    My # 1 question, is Gilbert? I thought the Steelers reached for him when they drafted Gilbert at the end of the 2nd round. He mostly carried a 3d round grade. Because he probably wouldn’t have made it till the Steelers pick at the end of the 3d.

    He regressed in 2012, is weak at run blocking ,can’t move his man and spent too much time on the ground, falling on other OL men legs. Because he was overpowered too often.

    My # 2 question, with all its high round draft picks. Will this OL ever be big enough, strong enough, to significantly improve its run blocking.

  • Weiss Chad

    Thats identical to my mock except I have us trading 2 nd 4th and seven for wr hopkins in second.jenkins in third .mathieu in the th zac dyzert fifth and lattimore seventh.I really like elam hopkins and jenkins.other picks i wouldnt mind.eddie lacy, monte ball, justin hunter, alec ogeltree, barrett jones, eric reid,Kevin Minter, Keenann allen, Kenny Vaccaros, and if star louteli drops pass seven u gotta pull trigger.I would consider trading back to stockpile picks as long as they can still get elam

  • nicolaisim

    Great minds think alike 🙂
    Lattimore should also be a great fit for us at RB.
    If he’s healthy, he could be a BIG steal for any team.

  • steeltown

    I’ll say it again.. Cotchery is more than capable of being the 3rd WR, the guy is clutch, he’s tough and he can block down field. Now, in a year when Sanders and Cotchery are both FA’s then things get interesting, so I do think drafting a WR this year is good idea i’m just sick of people trashing Cotchery, he’s capable

  • steeltown

    I am still confused over the release of Weslye Saunders.. doesnt make sense, Pope has no upside at this point in his career, David Johnson never really turned the corner and Jamie McCoy can barely stay on the practice squad… I like Paulson but I still see another TE being drafted in the middle Rds this year

  • steeltown

    I agree on both fronts

  • steeltown

    Very true about the compensatory picks

    I would rather watch those two big names walk if it meant keeping guys like K.Lewis, Foote, Foster & Starks

  • steeltown

    Colon should be back.. but who knows, if released after June 1st it saves over $5million in cap, but I believe brings around $4million in dead money in 2014, i think, just depends how much they need to save THIS year to lock in younger more reliable players AND is depends whether they lock up Foster or not

  • steeltown

    I think a new OL Coach might change the atmosphere.. also Gilbert though he may have been picked alittle high I think still has major potential, he’s only 24yrs old. I think they liked the fact that he played multiple Oline positions in college

  • steeltown

    Its not as bad as it seems, two of the positions mentioned would be #2 or backup spots (QB and TE) and they can shear up LG by signing Foster.. that leaves WR and RB as the biggest needs on Offense, possibly TE if Heath doesnt return to form by the end of training camp and preseason

  • LouPGH

    I agree on Cotchery. His low production is due at least in part to the fact that the Steelers really haven’t played him much. That said, they still need a late-Round WR a la AB this year.

  • steeltown

    Yep, draft a WR for sure, but you’re right Cotchery just didnt see the field that much, but when he did, 12 of his 17 total catches in 2012 resulted in FIRST DOWNS… E.Sanders also has a good move the chains % compared to his overall receptions, he just needs to put on some weight and secure the ball

  • Weiss Chad

    My perfect draft scenario changes itd matt elam 1.17 which hasn’t changed.Second round trade your second and next yrs second for deandrae hopkins.third round Brandon jenkins de /olb.fourth rd nico johnson ilb
    Fifth rd tyson matheui.sixth rd wing punter lsu.seventh rd marcus lattimore

  • Reese Dare

    1 – Chance Warmack OG – Alabama

    2 – Eric Reid S – LSU

    3 – Landry Jones QB – Oklahoma

    4 – Kenjon Barner RB – Oregon

    5 – Tyrann Matthieu CB – LSU

    6 – Rodney Smith WR – FSU

    7 – Cameron Marshall RB- ASU

    Spence begins to splits time with Foote and develops. Worlids looked fine on the outside and will replace Harrison. Let Colon, Foster, Wallace and Mendenhall walk. Resign Lewis & Starks if possible.

    Oline – Gilbert, Warmack (R), Pouncey, Decastro, Adams with Beachem and Legursky as floaters.

  • RW

    Big fan of that MD. As long as they’re wise enough to grab Elam, getting another safety would be superfluous I guess. I really like the Montee Ball pick, and I wouldn’t mind Mathieu in the fifth given that he has 1st round talent (but a 7th round mentality). I agree that Jones probably goes a little earlier than the fourth – teams always reach for a QB. Regardless, we’ll need a young CB. If Ball isn’t available, Lattimore could be a great steal. There are a few other RBs who would be great 3rd round picks as well. Let’s just hope that your top 3 go to us. I’d be pretty comfortable with the team for the next 4 years with that draft in combination with our 3 previous drafts. After that, we’ll need to take a QB in the first again unfortunately.

  • Agreed!

  • Gimme a break, dude. He’s behind 2 rookies in Indy. I liked him too, but he’s nothing more than a 3rd TE. Big deal!

  • He wasn’t a starter and never will be so it doesn’t matter. He’d be 3rd string tops if he were still here, so big whoop!

  • Well, I like Cotchery, and I also think Sanders is not a #2 receiver. If Wallace leaves, which he will, we’re screwed!

  • I love the 1st round pick, but I don’t think Warmack makes it to #17. No way Reid goes that far in the 2nd either. Great picks, but it’s not happening.

  • C’mon, no way Tyrann Mathieu goes in the 6th. Janoris Jenkins leads the way to him being a early 2nd round pick.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    It was odd posters were screaming to draft any particular guy when its months too early to know which place in rounds anyone will be drafted. Who will be available at which place in draft, changes wildly between now & draft. Its why mock drafts this early would be a ll wrong.

  • The most accurate Steelers 2013 mock draft EVER is as follows…
    (*Steelers trade out of 1st round and pick up two 2nd round picks and a 3rd round pick)

    2)LB – Chase Thomas 6-2, 230 Stanford
    2)WR – Da’Rick Rogers 6-2, 210 Tennessee Tech
    2)CB – Tyrann Mathieu 5-9, 175 LSU
    3)LB – Kiko Alonso 6-2, 245 Oregon
    3)DE – Margus Hunt 6-7, 280 SMU
    4)RB – Ray Graham 5-9, 195 Pittsburgh
    5)SS – Ray-Ray Armstrong 6-3, 215 Faulkner
    6)QB – Brad Sorenson 6-4, 235 Southern Utah
    7)TE – D.C. Jefferson 6-4, 250 Rutgers

  • Clint Martin

    mock drafts are usually wrong the day before the draft only the top five to ten picks are close.

  • steeltown

    Thats why they maybe draft a WR in the early Rds, Sanders has been good, but not great and Cotchery may be gone after 2013 anyway

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Good point

  • Maurice_hill_district

    I agree about Cotch. I have faith we’ll keep Cotch.

    But too superstious too cut a Pope to keep a pothead.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    We have so many backups at other positions too who havnt made any splash plays on STs.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    I havent heard of anyone trashing Cotchery

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Cotch is clutch.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Right on, to all of that.

  • steeltown

    Almost every article I read regarding our WR core does not give Cotchery enough credit. Even the article above mentions a need for a 3rd WR and that “he can spell Sanders on occasion” People forget when AB got hurt in game this season Cotchery stepped in and caught all 4 passes thrown his way for 50yds (3 first downs) in a big win over the Giants. Yes, he is no longer a #1 or #2 type guy, but he is easily a #3 WR

    I think you’ll agree with me that the reason we need to draft another WR is not because of Cotchery or not having a #3, its because we may not have Wallace or Sanders a year from now. We need another #1 or #2 WR

  • And Pope is what exactly? Saunders at least had potential. Pope takes up space.

  • It doesn’t matter how he played, and I do agree that he played well. If he is taking up 5+ mil a year to spend part or all of the year on the bench, we can’t afford him.

  • John Hinton

    I agree 100%

  • Phil Heidenreich

    I’d say move Matthieu down to Ray Graham’s spot, take a TE w/3rd second rounder and risk Lattimore being around in 6 or 7. Other than that I have few qualms.

  • grw1960

    Late round and FA players are often signed on potential. And late rounders are often subject to being kept or not by the little things they do that early round picks usually get away with.