Time To Turn Down The Panic Meter On Depth In March

A great deal of people have expressed their concern over the apparent lack of depth that the Pittsburgh Steelers currently face on their roster in the middle of March. Indeed, the team may well not be quite as deep in many areas as they typically are by this point in the offseason compared to most other years.

But for a team that so customarily builds its foundation through the draft, it’s hardly surprising to find so many missing pieces left to be inserted into the jigsaw puzzle that is the 2014 Steelers roster.

For one, even as we stand here right now, the Steelers are only looking for arguably two starters across the entire team, at defensive end and punter—any other emerging starters would only be a bonus. I don’t suspect that either Brian Arnfelt or Brad Wing are engraved into those positions.

It was well known that Ryan Clark would not be back. They made a deft move in replacing him with an ascending free safety in Mike Mitchell, whose personality and on-field demeanor fits the team like a glove.

It was assumed all along that Emmanuel Sanders would not be back. Sanders had his audition to be a starter, and he underwhelmed, and there’s no sense in bringing back a demoted starter who’s looking for his big contract.

Markus Wheaton has far more to offer than he was able to show in his rookie season, and Justin Brown and Derek Moye should not be just tossed away in the garbage can. Never the less, even with a re-signing of Jerricho Cotchery or the addition of another veteran free agent at the position, wide receiver is still a prime candidate to be addressed in the draft.

At defensive end, we simply have another case of a demoted starter in Ziggy Hood, who was literally demoted, in-season, after just four games. That’s a tough sell to bring back, and he found a better suitor at $4 million per season. Bottom line: good for him, and good luck to him. Time to move on.

Al Woods was an unfortunate loss, and a piece that the Steelers would evidently have liked to keep, but he was far from irreplaceable, and Cam Thomas could prove to be a suitable replacement as a flex defensive lineman who can play both defensive end and nose tackle.

While the Steelers may be searching for a starting defensive end, they still have the Brett Keisel card in their back pocket ready to be played at any time, a fact that should not be ignored.

At running back, they’re facing a backfield that’s virtually barren behind Le’Veon Bell, although they obviously liked Alvester Alexander to keep him on the practice squad all season and could be a candidate to make the roster this year. Should they manage to replace Jonathan Dwyer with Maurice Jones-Drew, I think we can probably turn down the panic meter at this position.

The offensive line is already at worst eight-deep after the re-signing of Guy Whimper, and there are two strong in-house candidates to take over a ninth and final spot as an interior reserve between Chris Hubbard and Nik Embernate.

The Steelers suddenly have too many safeties, with Will Allen and Shamarko Thomas constituting quality depth, at least for this season. The latter also bolsters the cornerback depth, now that we know that he will not be asked to start.

At inside linebacker, the Steelers made their decision on Vince Williams when they released Larry Foote. I see nothing saying that Williams can’t be a consistent starter on this defense. Terence Garvin provides depth at both inside and outside linebacker, while Kion Wilson and Chris Carter are warm bodies at the former and the latter, respectively.

When looking at the Steelers current depth situation and considering some very basic and logical moves, such as the possibility of bringing back Keisel, I really don’t see a need for panic over the team’s situation sitting still a month and a half out from the draft.

The team will have no shortage of picks this year, and will surely add a wide receiver, a cornerback, and a linebacker or two. Running back and defensive end are two other key positions to target for depth purposes. That would be easily doable with their eight draft picks they’re expected to have this year.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Jason White

    I know some people aren’t exactly high on Justin Brown but that is one player I am hoping makes a significant stride this offseason. I think he could have made the 53 last year had Moye not had his late preseason surge. With Sanders gone and possibly Cotchery I hope Justin Brown makes a point and finds himself on the 53 at worst the 5th man on the depth chart. He’s not that fastest guy but with his build he doesn’t have to be a burner.

  • Steelers12328882

    I think we should still be panicking about DE. We’re only looking at one in free agency, Carrington, and there’s no way we should expect the draft to immediately help that position. I’m ready to move on from Keisel(as a starter) and his greedy agent, so what else is there? I’m also worried about WR, but that is a position that can easily get contributions from the draft. I don’t even want to hear about Moye or Brown. Who’s the #2 or #3 if Cotchery isn’t resigned, Wheaton? Say we draft a receiver high in the draft and he’s the #2 with Wheaton as the #3. That would certainly seem exciting, but not very comforting considering the lack of experience.

  • steeltown

    I think we can pretty much assume if Carrington signs with CLE we will be re-signing Keisel, he’ll at the very least provide experienced depth

  • Jason White

    I truly hope Carrington values a starting job in a scheme he is at his best in over playing with Cleveland in a different scheme (Assuming they still run a 4-3, hell they are changing everything every other day. Have they fired Pettine yet?) for possibly more money and possibly not even starting.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Saving some money until after the draft when you actually know what you need is a better idea than overpaying for pretty good players.

    What if we get a ready to start DL in the second round and a starter gets hurt during ota’s?

  • mlc43

    LOL..your reply fit this article like a glove. I’m thinking you did it on purpose, right? It’s hard to tell on message boards sometimes.

  • Babybull

    He’s hurt to much let. Arnfelt play time to move on all these guys need is game experience if we keep on bring these old vets back the young guys play one year then their FA an we lose them like KL let them play see what we have .

  • ApexSteel

    I have to disagree. None of our wideouts have shown much of anything so it’s hard for me to say they absolutely will.

    Cam Thomas may be an ok backup but if an injury bug hits I don’t trust him.

    Kion Wilson and Chris Carter might as well be corpses. Kion couldn’t hold his position for a game and Chris Carter was beaten out by Steverson Sylvestry for his starting spot. Both are just awful players.

    Not much to say about it though. We made this cap-strapped bed and now we have to lay in it.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Yes, panic. Rookies don’t contribute much, and looking at this roster it appears there are over 20 available openings. I guess you’re hoping the Steelers ‘hit’ on all six of their picks, all the compensatory picks that Goodell may or may not award them, and then a dozen UDFA?

    I’m sorry, but Carter, Garvin, Moye, Brown, any of those RB, those lame TE, Wimper, a couple of DBs that battle each other for practice squad spots and hope for injuries, Anfelt, and N.Williams are not the type of guys you want on your roster, and you sure as hell don’t want them to be the #1 backup at any spot.

    I’m as hopeful as others that a guy like Arnfelt works his way into being a serviceable player, but we have to be realistic and ask why did 32 teams not draft him for 7 rounds, and why did 32 teams not offer him a roster spot for 3 weeks? Most of these guys, if not all, have Isaac Redman ceilings…over-rated by bloggers and under-talented.

    All that said, if this team finds a DE, backup RB and a 3rd WR AND no one gets hurt they can win the SB. Realistically, though, Sound the alarm, whoop, whoop!

  • Steeler Wheeler

    no such thing as a ready to start 3-4 DE in the draft. Maybe a 2 down NT who’s job it is to try and eat people and then move Mclendon, but not a starting DE.

  • Steelers12328882

    I never kiss and tell.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Although my eyes have been lifted by the action or non-action of the Steeler organization my thoughts have come to that if the FO/Coaching staff felt that the guys left for FA were not very important to victory this year. We may question some of the loses but if they were that important we would have signed them before FA started. From what we have heard Woods and Dwyer were still wanted but not necassary for victory.

  • Rob

    I’m hoping Hageman or Tuitt is sitting there staring us in the face in the second round. I’m sure Pittsburgh is looking to draft one d-end high. I’ve been of the opinion that after corner that’s our most pressing need, then wr

  • steeltown

    Labeling all of the depth players as having Redman ceilings is jumping the gun a bit IMO, who’s to say that Williams or Arnfelt don’t prove to be good players.. Im not saying we should be comfortable with our current depth and I do think we need to find another starting caliber DE but im fine with Arnfelt OR Williams backing up Heyward this season. I am not as optimistic about our current CB, LB, and RB depth

  • Col. John ‘Hannibal’ Smith:
    I don’t subscribe to coincidence, corporal. I believe that no matter how random things might appear, there’s still a plan.

  • Axe Skot

    The sky is falling. Oh, wait, that was just a snow flurry.

  • James Kling

    Yes, let’s rebuild through the draft. Just not the 2008 draft. Or the 2009 draft.

    2008 was comically poor. I think Mundy is at least still marginally employed by NYG.
    2009 is almost 2008’s equal, except there was talent there. It just didn’t fit here (Hood), or went off to play elsewhere (Wallace, Urbik, Lewis… and Shipley, FWIW). Hood being the last, we’ve cleaned house on this class, but IMO did a poor eval job on Urbik and probably Shipley. Did a poor job of talent retention WRT Lewis, a product of bad cap management. Wallace was destined to go, and has not flourished.
    2010 saw 12 picks, of whom 3 remain viable for the Steelers (AB, Pouncey, Worilds). This should be met with trumpets and laurels. Sanders can play, some, but is gone. Dwyer can play, some, but never exactly received a ringing endorsement: also gone. Sly Sylvester has been a STs guy only. Won’t bore you with the rest, an undistinguished list.
    2011 was another banner year, relatively: Heyward, a man; Gilbert, decent, may be improving; Cortez, at his best a solid starter, at worst below the proverbial line. Curtis Brown the latest casualty, the rest never amounted. Small haul 3 years out.
    2012 – speaking of small hauls not so far removed – DeCastro, coming into his own as a stud OL. Mike Adams, still waiting to see it, but worth keeping in hope that he does. Spence, sad/heartwarming, like the kid, but still up against long odds. Ta’amu, never thought he was a fit; was right, bye. Rainey, weird saga. Paulson, why is he even still here. But Beachum, a late surprise, has done a standout job for us. So, two solid contributors, two we can hope for.
    2013 is, I’m hoping, going to turn out better, but I am not filled with hope. Jarvis struck me wrong then, and now. Bell has grown on me quite a bit, looks very good. Wheaton will, I think, contribute, if he can stop breaking fingers. Loved Shamarko when we tabbed him, wanted him badly, but had the rookie deer in the headlights at times. Vince Williams got the call when Foote was hurt, not convinced he’s the answer, but ironically I don’t think anyone ever thought Foote was either, when he was drafted. So, patience. Doubt we got much more out of these guys, unless Nick Williams turns it on. So, maybe three out of this bunch, four? Of course, I’ve overlooked Landry Jones in all of this. Intentionally.

  • mem359

    “Why did teams not draft him?” may be true most of the time, but not always. The counter arguments are Tom Brady (6th round) and James Harrision (undrafted).

    Harrision is also a good argument for a player who did not reach his potential until after several years in the league. He was making mental errors in his initial years, so he wasn’t ready to be a DPoY until he gained more experience.

  • Chad H

    Hageman does not fit the Steelers just like Ziggy. Good to possibly great players but don’t fit the Steelers defensive system. Tuitt fits our system and I think will make a great 3-4 DE.

  • This is a very useful counter-point to the panic mode into which many Steelers fans have fallen, not least as we may lose out on Cotchery and Carrington just as we lost out on Starks and just as we lost Woods. (I really can’t see MJD signing with us.)

    But I’m somewhere in between the two poles, because I’m just not as optimistic as Matthew is that our young guys and unknown draft picks will actually prove to be any good. So yes, it’s too early to panic, and panic isn’t helpful anyway, but it’s not too early to be really, really worried about 2014.

  • JohnB

    i feel the same way about DE…I figure they must really like that Nick WIlliams kid or something. But I guess Keisel is the backup plan

  • Milliken Steeler

    Exactly and he is a special teams option as a return man. It was close with Moye and Moye already had a year in the system a head of Justin.

    I think the kid will open some eyes this year.

  • steeler4life

    People just stop!!! this team win or loose will be okay Bill C went through 3 seasons when we did not have good records(rebuild time) so this is no different. Stay the course My Steeler fans and you will be rewarded with another trophy to brag about.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Moye needs to bulk up and Justin needs to catch 2000 balls in the off season. They would both improve immensely if they can do that. Justin is also a good blocker, which will be missed on 3rd downs if Cotchery departs for Carolina.

    Here’s hoping they both work their asses off to improve this off season, because they both have potential, even if it starts in a backup role for now.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Sure it’s jumping the gun. At DE, an injured 6th rounder and an UDFA, both with no experience are roster fodder right now. Best of luck to them as we may need them both. Back to my point, after the top 30 or so on this roster, I don’t see one guy that anyone would trade a seventh round pick for.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Yes, and if Arnfelt comes out in training camp like a beast and wins a starting job, that would be a huge bonus. I bet some young guy comes along a wins a job and I welcome that.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Exactly. And if they get an opportunity, you might find 1 or 2 good players, even if their not studs. Remember, you need good players also. Not everyone is going to be a Pro Bowler.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Plenty of guys like that, late bloomers. But, the Steelers have too many guys who are basically UDFA or worse (some experience, worse talent than UDFA).

  • RMSteeler

    Is there a deadline for designating a post 6/1 release? If not, there’s sure to be some better options that are left floating around than right now. Also, some cuts to be sure if teams get certain players in the draft. Panic mode is about the time training camp opens.

  • joed32

    I’m pretty sure that the deadline is 6/1. There will be players released that haven’t been previously mentioned after teams see what they get in the draft.

  • shawn

    I like Brown … and think many people have given up on him … he has much more upside than Moye … and could easily turn into a solid #4 with 500 yds .. 3-4 Tds output … he is used to an offense that spreads the ball around like in OU and could equally do the same here !

  • shawn

    I think this article is looking thru rose color glasses … we were 8-8, 2 seasons in a row … there is obviously need for some MAJOR change to improve … as we are right now making LITTLE incremental changes is only going to lead to “LITTLE” improvement !

  • shawn

    i kind of see it the same way … we need some major upgrades and change … dont really see that happening so far … see a lot of nothing with no clear plan in mind … hopefully they know what they are doing and most everything is going to plan … but i have my doubts !

  • shawn

    i think ur points are a bit more realistic

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Thank you, Matthew for this article!!! I’m a pretty avid fan but it’s amazing how many people want to throw themselves off the Liberty Bridge over whether or not we get Carrington, for instance!!!
    The key here is the draft, and it is amazing to me how few people (including virtually every mock draft website) fails to recognize that yes, we WILL have a 3rd round pick as compensation for the ‘loss’ of Mike Wallace. A 5th and 7th I believe as well (may be wrong about the 7th). I know they’re not officially announced yet, so perhaps that’s why.
    Today is the first day of Spring, people!!!!
    I feel that getting the starting FS was probably the potentially toughest hole to fill given that there are only 2 quality safeties in the draft along with a few mediocre ones. And it appears we got a YOUNG one that could be with us for years provided he passes muster.
    Hey, I would like to get Carrington too, for the same reason – he’s young and could be an important piece for years; in my heart would like to see Da Beard back for one more ride, too.
    So, Steeler Nation, let’s all take a deep breath and if we are in trouble AFTER the draft then we can hurtle ourselves off one of our many bridges, OK?

  • Rob

    I don’t know, hagemen sounds the the prototypical d-end we like: 6’5″ 300lbs. That’s about what Cam is. Ziggy was undersized

  • shawn

    or maybe the the FO is just not doing so well and have misjudged a lot of things !

  • Per rotoworld Cotch leaning towards Carolina

  • Labrat0116

    Retweeted by Scott Brown
    Everett Levy ‏@Everettlevy 5m
    BREAKING NEWS: Jerricho Cotchery agrees to terms on a contract with the Carolina Panthers!

  • Paul Hoover

    I think the most important move this year would be to move down in the draft in day one and pick up two 3rd round picks and that would really square us up pretty good at our needs …. Stop messing around with these money greedy so called pro’s !!

  • Paul Hoover

    We are great at turning new people into stars and we need speed and talent and health !!

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I believe that is part of it but not all of it.

  • Paul Hoover

    I’m excited to see Nik embernate this year and cam Hayward and worilds and mike Mitchell and Wheaton but still hope we get Alex Carrington !! I think the steelers will be the steelers , they’ll be fine , remember they were rolling there last eight games last season and I think they’ve only improved on defense this year so far, not much change for offense and we know what we can do there… Just a few minor needs !!!

  • RMSteeler

    Just think what free agency would have been like if the teams didn’t get a combined extra $300+ million to spend. Worilds wouldn’t likely have had the transition tag. And, would the Steelers paid Mitchell that much by restructuring/cutting players?

  • RMSteeler

    I’d like to see Brown given the chance to play the slot in preseason. I believe he’s tough enough, and isn’t he about the same size as Cotchery? I don’t see Moye making the team this year if the draft goes well.

  • Matthew Marczi

    For what it’s worth, I believe Jim Wexell said that the team is happy with Justin Brown’s progress.

  • Matthew Marczi

    A lot of those ‘major changes” occurred during the course of last season, when the team finished 6-2.

  • Matthew Marczi

    This would be an ideal draft for a trade-down, yes. Of course, it all comes down to finding a trade-down partner, and that could be difficult.

  • There are all solid points, and a lot of their guys have potential, which is great.

    Still, I can’t help but wonder what happens if Brown, Worilds or Timmons goes down early. Injuries will happen, and none of those positions have anything more than stopgap depth. Yes, the draft will help. But if the team is relying on production from rookies at so many spots, they have already deviated from the “Steeler Way”.

  • Do you think they would do it, given their history of so rarely trading down? I would love to see them do it as we could use the picks and the value.

  • Don’t be surprised if we don’t get that third for Wallace.

  • The issue I have with the article, is that any disagreement with its sentiments have been labeled panic, rather than realistic analysis. I have clashed with a lot of people here because my outlook is less rosy, yet I am far from panicking about the season.

  • 2013 definitely looks to be our best draft in a while, so far. Though it is early and the jury is still out on a lot of guys, we have the potential for 5, maybe 6 solid contributors, which is all you can really ask for in a draft.

  • James Kling

    Which 5 or 6? Bell I’m confident of. I think Shamarko will stick and possibly become a starter. I also think that based on Wheaton’s camp last year he will grow this year. Vince might be a backup. Jarvis = Inc. Didn’t show it early, or late, but hope springs.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Honestly? No, I don’t think they would. Unless maybe their target is Nix.

  • unfurious

    I think it would have more to do with who falls to 15. In other words, they wouldn’t taget Nix. But if they don’t like any of the value at 15 (which I don’t see happening), they may try to trade back to a draft position where they feel the value will return. That could be in Nix’s range but I think they’d only trade back if there were several players that they like threre; and again, no value at 15.

  • Bell, Wheaton and Thomas I expect to see a lot from. V. Williams showed he is at least a backup. Jarvis is incomplete, yes, but I think he will contribute. Nick Williams may be a role player down the line.

  • shawn

    what changes were those ? While I agree that it looked like we turned a positive corner … performance in one season can not be counted on to continue over to the next … when I am talking changes I am specifically talking about personnel !

  • shawn

    that sounds good !

  • Jason White

    That sounds great. I really studied tape on him after we drafted him especially when I seen the 6’3″ frame. I thought he really used his size well. He competed for jump balls, works his way back to the quarterback and is a willing blocker. He has the makeup of a good Steelers receiver. He could use someone like Ben throwing him the ball instead of Landry Jones.

  • Jason White

    I feel the same way. I feel that J. Brown can be easily the number 4 if he makes significant strides this year. He can also be one of those well needed redzone targets.

  • Joe Gulaskey

    Steelers will have at least 8 draft picks, the depth will come. Looking forward to seeing how the team fills out. I could see at least three draft picks starting at one point or another this year, but they will be upgrades over what was in place last year.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Interesting, bgsteel. EVERYTHING I read says that that is pretty much a lock – and as I understand it it’s based on the salary he was paid(?) so do you know something that the rest of us don’t? What do you think we WILL get for the loss of Wallace?

  • We SHOULD get a 3, and I expect us to. I just wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up with a 4 as a mini F-U from Goodell since they didn’t dock a draft pick.

  • Matthew Marczi

    So then why don’t we change the entire roster every year since we can’t count on the past?

  • shawn

    He’s definitely underrated … no he will never be a star, but he is what he is and a valuable solid #4 WITH SIZE … is a good thing !

  • shawn

    rethink ur answer please ..

  • Nick Sabatella

    Just because we have 8 offensive lineman with starting experience, doesn’t mean we have 8 good offensive lineman…. I know the Steelers have invested a lot of picks into the position, but we desperately need a Bookend LT. I think Beach is awesome, and played admirably at LT, but I think if any of the top 3 LTs fall to the steelers…. we have to take him. It would just be nice to not have to worry about it anymore, and have someone who can pass block as well as run block with great efficiency to open up some running lanes
    Crossing my fingers Lewan falls to the Steelers

  • Scot Hickerson

    There was a story last month about Ben working out with Moye and Justin Brown in CA.. He is probably evaluating where they are and if they want to draft a tall receiver with number one or not..