(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Mike Sando of The Athletic released an article today reviewing the wins, losses and questions for all 32 teams in the NFL. Sando had quotes from unnamed executives and evaluators for all the teams, and the Steelers didn't get a good review for the moves that they've made this offseason and in free agency.
Below is what the unnamed executive had to say about the Steelers.
"It’s easy to see what the Steelers are trying to accomplish. That doesn’t mean it’s exciting.
“They’re trying to just bring a similar team back and be a little bit better. Maybe they get better in the draft or whatever, but can Ben (Roethlisberger) still throw? They’re ruining their cap for next year for one final ride with Ben, as if they owe it to him — and maybe they do. I just think it’s futile.”
Roethlisberger was true to his word and took a $5 million pay cut. He'll make $14 million and save the team more than $15 million in salary-cap space in 2021. The new deal includes a $12.925 million signing bonus, a $1.075 million base salary and four voidable years to push a $10.36 million cap hit into 2022.
With all things considered, it looks like 2021 will be Roethlisberger's swan song. The Steelers had really no choice but to bring the future Hall of Fame quarterback back, as no matter what they would have had a $22.25 million cap hit if he was released, traded, or cut. Also, their only alternative at quarterback was either Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins.
The biggest step the Steelers need to take to improve in 2021 is to draft a top-tier running back and some offensive lineman. They can't have Roethlisberger attempting 608 passes like last year, which was the third-most in the league and the run game ranking dead last, averaging 84.4 yards per game.
Tyson Alualu decided to stay in Pittsburgh after initially having a verbal agreement with the Jaguars, which was a big break. However, the defense will look a lot different in 2021 with losing four starters in Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, Vince Williams and Steven Nelson to either free agency or release. Dupree signed with the Titans and Hilton went to the Bengals in free agency, while Williams and Nelson were cap casualties.
An unnamed evaluator sees the big losses on defense as a concern also for the Steelers in 2021.
“They lost a whole lot more than they gained,” an evaluator said. “Losing Bud Dupree was gigantic for them. That tells me they will draft somebody at that spot. I felt that as soon as he got hurt, it was like everything went to hell.”
While Dupree was a huge loss for the Steelers in free agency, the evaluator must not know about Alex Highsmith, who the Steelers drafted in the third round last year with the idea of him being Dupree's replacement. Highsmith was solid in his rookie campaign and should do fine in filling Dupree's role. It will take time for him to reach Dupree's level, but he has a lot of talent and potential. The Steelers do, however, need to draft another outside linebacker later in the draft to serve as a No. 3 outside linebacker for the team.