Although free agency is not officially set to begin until this afternoon, we have already read of several moves made, or intended to be made. On the plus side of the ledger, the Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to re-sign safety Damontae Kazee and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi, and will sign cornerback Patrick Peterson. He replaces Cameron Sutton, intended to sign with the Detroit Lions, and inside linebacker Robert Spillane is reported to be heading for the Las Vegas Raiders.
Even though there isn’t a starter at inside linebacker right now, though, with the expected moves in consideration, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Ray Fittipaldo believes that the outside linebacker position is the largest outstanding need during the free agency period.
That is the answer he gave in response to a question to that effect—specifically, what position is most important for the Steelers to add in free agency, before the draft. Fittipaldo argued that they “Need a vet to be a No. 3 but they should draft a guy in the middle rounds who can develop into a No. 3 in short order”.
It should be noted that the chat was conducted before the news about Spillane, and he indicated during the chat that he expected the Steelers to re-sign him.
The Steelers’ current number three outside linebacker behind starters T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith is Jamir Jones, who passed Malik Reed on the depth chart by the end of the season, but that isn’t saying much. The team also regained 2021 sixth-round pick Quincy Roche.
You certainly do not go into the regular season content with Jones and Roche as the depth behind your starters there, however. I don’t think there’s any question that the Steelers need a more satisfyingly dependable answer for their third edge rusher.
Who that would be is hard to say, but Steelers fans have debated the theoretical return of Bud Dupree, who has been with the Tennessee Titans for the past two years. They are expected to release him today, making him a street free agent, and after two mediocre seasons clouded by injury, it’s hard to surmise what his market value will be.
There are a number of names out there, including some who would likely be had for cheap. But with the moves the Steelers are expected to make, they will have to restructure a contract or two first before they can get even more done. And that’s not to mention consideration of the restricted free agent tenders, also due today.
Other than the off-ball linebacker position, other areas on the roster are certainly in need of reinforcement, including a second tight end, a third quarterback, offensive and defensive line depth—really, you can go down the list at all positions. It wouldn’t hurt to have a veteran slot receiver, either.