The Pittsburgh Steelers were 11-0 in the 2020 NFL and had every reason to think they had a realistic chance of at least making it to the AFC championship game. Unfortunately for the team, the wheels fell off at the business end of the season, punctuated by a disappointing home loss to the Cleveland Browns on NFL Wild Card Weekend.
NFL: 5 free agents the Pittsburgh Steelers should target
The Steelers still have a very talented team capable of contending in the 2021 NFL season and beyond, but will look to improve their team via free agency in the coming weeks. As it currently stands, the Pittsburgh Steelers are over the salary cap and may need to release some veteran players to create room for new additions. They won’t be able to commit to large contracts with the upper echelons of the 2021 free agency crop, but they can still find talent at a discount to help round out their team ahead of the 2021 NFL season.
Let’s take a closer look at five affordable players the Steelers could target this month.
#1 Mark Ingram, RB
The Pittsburgh Steelers are very familiar with the work of veteran running back Mark Ingram. He played two years with rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, and was an integral part of their locker room both seasons. Ingram is famous for his “Big Truss” press conference, hyping up 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, and did not cause a stir when the team handed the backfield reigns to rookie J.K. Dobbins in 2020.
In terms of what he has left to give on the field, the jury is still out. He’s only two years removed from a 1000-yard, 10 touchdown season, and could potentially recapture his form with more work. But even if he’s the lesser part of the committee, fans can feel confident that Ingram will give his all on the gridiron and behind the scenes to help his team win.
#2 David Andrews
Arguably the biggest hole the Pittsburgh Steelers will have to fill this offseason is at the center position. Longtime center Maurkice Pouncey decided to retire last month after a stellar ten-year career in the NFL, all with the Steelers. He made nine Pro Bowls in his career and was a two-time All-Pro.As a win-now team, it’s unlikely that the Steelers will call upon a young center to spearhead their offensive line in the 2021 NFL season. Pittsburgh’s best bet is to bring someone in with experience who has played in big games before. David Andrews of the New England Patriots would fit the bill nicely, having played in the NFL playoffs in four out of five NFL seasons. He’s also won two Super Bowls in his career.
#3 Kyle Rudolph
Predictably, the Minnesota Vikings released long-time starting tight end, Kyle Rudolph, ending his ten-year run with the team. This transaction should be on the Steelers’ radar, as the only reliable tight end they currently have on the roster is Eric Ebron.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers decide to bring Rudolph into the mix, they could have an imposing two tight end set at the goal line. Rudolph clocks in at 6’6” and 265 pounds, while Ebron is 6’4” and 253 pounds. NFL defenses usually don’t have cornerbacks or linebackers equipped to deal with that size in the receiving game, which could be a huge advantage for the Steelers.
#4 Jacoby Brissett
Fortunately for the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger suited up in 15 out of 16 regular-season games last year, after having only appeared in 2 games in the 2019 NFL season due to injury. He’s about as tough as they come in the NFL, but Roethlisberger is 39 years old and may not be able to play through injuries as he did earlier in his career.
In 2019, the Steelers still finished with a respectable 8-8 record with Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges under center. But neither player provides the type of insurance Pittsburgh would feel comfortable with if something happened to Big Ben. Additionally, Dwayne Haskins is more of a long-term project, having flamed out in Washington. Pittsburgh could use an affordable veteran backup like Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who can come in and give the team a chance to win week in and week out.
#5 Kyle Van Noy
The Steelers may have to make some difficult decisions in the coming weeks, as linebackers Avery Williamson and Bud Dupree are set to hit the free-agent market. Since the team is already over the cap, they may not be able to bring either player back and may need to look at alternatives at that position.
Recently released Kyle Van Noy would be a good fit for the Steelers. He wasn’t quite the same last year playing with the Miami Dolphins, but still registered 10 quarterback hits which lead all free agents inside linebackers. If he can get healthier this offseason, the Steelers might be able to get a reliable player at a massive discount.