Post-Draft Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agency Wishlist

Ok, I want to be clear. These certainly are far from “prize” free agents and our first wishlist way back in March wasn’t exactly star-studded either. But instead of slogging through a meaningless rankings list, here is a slightly less meaningless free agency wishlist. Honestly, I don’t have any attachment to really any of these players but as the David Johnson signing indicates, the Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t necessarily done opening up their checkbooks.

Though some of my original free agents are still on the market (hi Leger Douzable!) I won’t repeat the same ones here. If you want to check out that list though, head on over to this article.

This list isn’t meant to be impressive. It’s niche, and a guide to add a couple players to round out the training camp roster.

Wide Receiver

Seyi Ajirotutu: I imagine if the Steelers want to bring in another receiver, it’ll be a veteran who can contribute on special teams. That’s Ajirotutu, a 28 year old who saw action of 262 special teams snaps last season. He had eight tackles, a “down” year after being an ace with the San Diego Chargers the previous two with tallies of 15 and 18 tackles during that span.

His time on offense has been very limited but there isn’t a window for him to see the field there anyway. It would add a veteran presence to the back end of a young group, a refreshing foil to Demarcus Ayers, Eli Rogers, and Shakim Phillips. If none of those three can hack it, Ajirotutu can have an immediate impact.

Jason Avant: Avant is certainly a veteran, an old man by NFL standards with a 33 on his birth certificate. And no, he doesn’t have much special teams value, though according to Football Outsiders, he played 62 snaps there last season, his most in years. While he’s lost his ability to separate, he still has a tremendous pair of hands and is always someone you can trust to secure the catch. He would have to come in on a veteran minimum deal but he’s a guy who could give you snaps on offense – if you ever needed them – and again, serve as a nice counterpart to the youth Ayers and the gang brings.

Offensive Guard

Sean Hickey: I’m going to stretch my own criteria a tad because I have mentioned Hickey once before on Twitter. Lay out the Steelers’ 90 man roster and they’re short a third string guard. Pittsburgh seems to prefer to go into camp with 15, three full teams, offensive linemen. They signed Kelvin Palmer right before camp after Mike Adams was shelved on PUP. If someone goes down in camp, and you’re left with just 13 players, you have a lot of moving around to do, something the team doesn’t like to do in its first week.

So if we’re looking for someone, we want someone who can play guard. Hickey played tackle at Syracuse but has worked at guard in the NFL, an expected transition. As we wrote about before, the Steelers had interest in him coming out of last year’s draft. This is undeniably a boring sign. And that’s why it’s perfect for Pittsburgh.

Amini Silatolu: This would be one of the bigger “names” here but there is at least some Steelers’ connection in play. He was brought in for a visit by the team before the 2012 NFL Draft. He enjoyed moderate success with the Carolina Panthers, but is coming off a torn ACL that has cooled off his market. It’s starting to pick back up with visits by the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs and maybe Pittsburgh decides to jump into the mosh pit when Silatolu’s health status is a little clear, and it’s more likely he’s good to go for the beginning of camp. Because damaged goods need not apply.

Defensive End

Cory Redding: My attempts to give Pittsburgh a five tech. This is my white whale. Ricardo Mathews is likely viewed as that guy but I understand the trepidation (lack of height, possible length, not a ton of experience there).

Redding was released by the Cardinals over a month ago, an expected move with his $3 million salary. He’s spent the latter half of his career playing in a 3-4 and though his production was poor last season, he was hindered by an ankle sprain. Previously, his production was solid, picking up at least 3.5 sacks in four of the last five seasons. He’d come on the veteran minimum deal and like receiver, add depth to the back end of the group. Sort of like this year’s Clifton Geathers, though much older.

Safety

Craig Dahl: The veteran depth at safety for Pittsburgh is rough; a-given-up-on Shamarko Thomas and special team-lifer in Ross Ventrone (Shark arguably belongs in that category now, too). Dahl’s only started a full season once in his career, way back in 2012 with the St. Louis Rams, but he started four games for the New York Giants last season, recording 44 tackles and forcing a fumble. Also played a ton on special teams, nearly 70% of the time.

Having Dahl make the roster would provide a tick more comfort if something happens to the starters and Sean Davis’ progression is slow. Just enjoy having those options though again, ideal depth is always fleeting. You are also talking about bigger minimum salaries for veterans, unless you kick in the veteran minimum qualifying deal.

James Ihedigbo: Similar to Dahl though Ihedigbo might be a little worse and definitely a little older. He was the starter in Detroit last year before getting benched for Isa Abdul-Quddus, who parlayed a strong season into a contract with the Miami Dolphins.

Still, he played a lot of football and showed impressive INT numbers in his 30+ years, including a three interception season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2014.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Rob Olzer

    No more free agents. Run with what we got. It’s plenty. This year is set. All they need to do is extend DeCastro, Bell and Brown.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Only player i’d holla at is Done Whitner, but like I said before there will be better players released during training camp and preseason. I think that’s the reason we haven’t signed anyone for real!

  • Jaybird

    I would love a pick up like an AL Woods type D end. I just don’t think there’s any out there. I guess we’ll see when guys start getting cut at the end of camp. LT Walton looked lost last year in limited snaps. I’m crossing my fingers that he turns into that Al Woods type player. But I agree , sign Decastro, bell , and extend brown .

  • Lost Loves

    No thanks to all of those guys.

  • Tom Jackson

    I’d be happy with Ajirotutu, one of the Guards or a safety. The WR just for the potential ST value and he could be easily cut if they wanna take a young guy into the season instead, which is probably best anyway but why not leave yourself another option? Wouldn’t be mad about that one.

    The Guards but just if they don’t like what they see these next couple of days with Finney and feel like they could improve a good bit. And a safety just because it’s so thin. We have Mitchell, Golden and Davis going in but why not make an even bigger competition for the 4th spot, I mean one injury to a starter and we could be in big trouble from there on. Davis is not ready for anything on a NFL field and Shamarko or Ventrone haven’t proved to be anything valuble in that area either.

  • bruce

    Did I miss the write up with the 2 pre-draft contest results? the draft began the 28th, the contests articles days before that.. so it’s been a month basically.. with so little of interest in the news about the team, what exactly is the hold up for posting the results ?

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Exactly. Rather than the slim pickings presently on the market, let’s wait until a few of those ‘surprise’ camp cuts.

  • I’m stoked about WR Canaan Severin. I hope he makes the team or at worst, makes the practice squad at some point.

  • Alex Kozora

    In regards to the guards, it’s a numbers game than anything. Here are how your 3 OL teams stack up. Mix and match the names however you please.

    First Team: Villanueva-Foster-Pouncey-DeCastro-Gilbert

    Second Team: Harris-Hubbard-Wallace-Finney-Hawkins

    Third Team: Feiler-Manhart-Schooley-???-Mihalik

    So there’s the hole. A third team guard. Like I wrote, the team likes to roll into camp with 15 of those guys. So that’s the one position I think is most likely to add just because of the numbers game.

  • Boots

    Why bring in another WR? DHB has assumed the vet presence role, plays special teams and not only knows the system, but has played well as a third or fourth option. Let the kids get the reps and see who wants it more. While I wouldn’t mind another interior OL addition, if we did anything at S Antrel Rolle would be a better addition than Dahl or Ihedigbo. I mean if we’re going to take reps away from Davis and/or Shamarko let’s make it count!

  • Alex Kozora

    Signing a safety doesn’t take away Davis’ reps. You can have a second team pairing of Dahl/Ihedigbo alongside Davis.

    And reps away from Shark? Shark’s own problems cost him his reps…not anyone else.

  • RickM

    Agree totally on the Shark thing. He’s had 3 years of reps. It’s execution now, not a lack of teaching and reps.

  • Boots

    Shamarko was a third year player trying to learn an new system last year that asked him to go against his instincts. From what i saw, and granted you see more tape than I do, his biggest problem was being overly aggresive. While he may not turn into the starter people hoped for, it’s not unreasonable to think that his second year in the system could be much better!

  • Boots

    He hasn’t really had three years of reps, though. His rookie year he was used as a slot CB until his ankle injury. Then last year he was trying to learn Cover 2 concepts. Its really only his second year of reps in this system.

  • Alex Kozora

    So was everyone else…they succeeded, he failed. Think it’s time to stop making excuses for the guy. Either you can play or you can’t. And his play was determined that he can’t.

  • RickM

    Butler made the comment last October that ‘I’d be crazy to give them anything they don’t already know how to do’. And Thomas was given ample playing time in the first game of the season against N.E….something you’d never allow if he didn’t even understand the system you wanted to play. It’s beyond time for the excuses about Thomas to end. It’s a performance issue, not a learning issue.

  • JohnB

    this is a good list to keep in mind because injuries do happen.

  • Boots

    Will Allen started his career as a cover 2 safety, so he wasn’t learning a new concept. His mistakes were more mental than physical, and if he flat out couldn’t play he wouldn’t still be on the roster or at the very least they would’ve cut him like they did Holliman.

  • Boots

    Ample playing time? He played 4 snaps against the cheaters!

  • RickM

    He has been given chances to show he can play multiple times. I’m sorry but it’s absolutely ridiculous to suggest a guy in Year 4 wasn’t given ample time to learn in his first 3 years and needs more practice reps. Should we just sit all our current draft choices until Year 4 to make sure they understand how to perform their tasks?

  • Alex Kozora

    It’s not just Allen. It’s everyone.

    And let’s not think Cover 2 was a staple in Pittsburgh last year. Or that Shark had never done it. Or that Cover 2 is finding the Higgs Boson. We’re at the highest NFL level here. Players are expected to be able to retain information and adapt. If you can’t do that, you’re not long for the league.

    Shark can play. Just not on defense. Special teams is now his calling card.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I’m guessing the Las Vegas move for Mr. Bryan had most everything to do with that, has been my guess.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I wouldn’t at all mind a player here or a player there, just for depth and competition. But my main “post-draft wishlist” is simply two-fold.

    1. No waking up to a headline that reads… “Steelers player arrested for… or Steelers player fails drug test.”

    2. And health. Health. Health Health Health Health Health. My Lord, just stay healthy. Avoid black cats. Ticking off Voodoo shamans. Not opening any umbrellas in houses. Health. Just some good old fashioned quiet and peace and health. If we can just stay healthy with this group, we have a real chance this year of making some LOUD noise.

  • steelmann58

    i agree with s and dl help but couldnt they look at a cb too?

  • Boots

    You keep saying he’s had so many chances, but when we’re they? I already shot down your ample playing time argument, so show me where all these chances were! Did he not have Troy in front of him for two years? I’m sure he had all kinds of chances to take Troy off the field! So that leaves last year learning a new system! What a bum!

  • Alex Kozora

    I really struggled to find a name who would fit, to be honest.

  • Alex Kozora

    lol, so truth. I want to be the town crier. “2 o’clock and all is well!”

  • renoir

    Wondering if we have our eye on another Cockrell whom we were interested in but got drafted by another team and gets released this year?

  • Boots

    So Burns was a reach bc, among other things, the Steelers played a lot of cover 2 and 3 last year, but now it wasn’t a staple? It definitely was in the preseason last year, and if memory serves me, his struggles came mostly from over aggressiveness in that coverage. Why is it so unthinkable to believe that a full year in the new system couldn’t make a difference since, as you pointed out, we aren’t talking molecular physics?

  • RickM

    He was put on the field at least 3 times that I can recall and didn’t impress anyone and was pulled. As for you shooting down my argument, I notice you haven’t even addressed whether secondary players should be given four years to learn how to play their position. It’s beyond unbelievable that you feel he needs more reps. But I guess 3 years aren’t enough. What’s the cutoff – 4 years, 5 years, 6 years?

    Makes you wonder why we cut guys like Richardson, Hawthorne, etc. Based on your ‘logic’ they should have been given four years to learn. That’s my last comment as arguing that Thomas ‘needs more practise reps’ after 3 years of instruction from professional coaches is silly. He’s had more than enough instruction. He needs to show that he warrants playing time and if he gets it he has to perform.

  • Boots

    What? You mean you aren’t going to pull any more unsubstantiated claims about playing time and chances out of thin air? The one specific you did give, you were completely wrong about. Thank goodness Tomlin, Colbert and Co use more than figments of your imagination to make personnel decisions!

  • Da Bus Driver

    What is Whitner up to now a days?

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Still on the market i think! Lol!

  • Xclewsive

    My mind might be fuzzy, but I think the Steelers have brought in a player off the streets every year right before the season.

  • LucasY59

    Silatolu was pretty good pre injury (but Im not sure if he will be the same player he used to be) giving him a prove it deal to come to camp would be pretty low risk

    Ziggy Hood is on Washingtons roster right now, but if he is available later I would bring him back as a Veteran Depth guy (he cant be worse than Mathews) he would be cheap if he becomes available

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Justin Gilbert from CLE? I know he has done exactly NOTHING but let’s face it, CLE has to be a pretty toxic place for a young player to try to develop!!!

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Alex, we have all heard the famous ‘from the neck up’ comment of Tomlin’s in re Shark.
    What SPECIFICALLY is it that you believe Shark is not getting mentally? Coverages? Changes in responsibility due to offensive shifts pre-play? I mean, if they believe Davis has a real shot at starting this year as a SS, surely Thomas could fill those in the box responsibilities after 3 years? ( Or not, I guess!)
    I mean, Coach T is a little bit too smarmy in his comments sometimes without providing substance to reinforce his comment (no doubt on purpose!).

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Boots, although I kinda agree with your comment relative to playing time, and still believe that Thomas can provide value on D (vs strictly STs), don’t you think it’s pretty telling that we drafted ANOTHER safety vs. another position?
    I mean, I would imagine that draft picks are something that are discussed with the whole coaching staff, so it’s not only Tomlin, or only Butler, or only Lake that apparently feel Thomas isn’t ‘getting it’.
    I have to believe that THREE knowledgeable people couldn’t miss a talent or capability if it was there.

  • Boots

    That’s the thing though, if there wasn’t enough for them to think he still could, he wouldn’t be here anymore. If they had cut him, I’d say that’s too bad but he blew it. The fact that he’s still here tells me that the team still sees a player in him, and if that’s the case then get him as many reps as they can to make sure he’s ready.
    As far as drafting another S, I feel like we needed to regardless, but drafting one that high means this is his last chance to put it all together, which I think it should be.

  • renoir

    I know we actually had signifcant interest in Cockrell before he was drafted but cannot remember if we had any pre draft interest in Gilbert or if he was just always mocked to us…

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Those second and third team cupboards look pretty bare. I like Silatolu but I think somebody’s going to give him more money than the steelers would be prepared to spend. He might want to be a starter as well.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Mocked to us (one of those ‘wish list’ hopeful draft picks) – apparenyly the FO knew better huh?

  • Jeff Burton

    It’s funny to me everybody is counting out the STARTER and LEADING TACKLER (80 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 FF) at the Safety position last year, Will Allen. I’ll bet you if the Steelers are not happy with Golden or Davis, which will probably happen OR if there is ANY injury in the Safety corp, Tomlin and Colbert will be on the phone to him. He is waiting around Pittsburgh as he has for a number of seasons ready to be of assistance.