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.