With Ryan Shazier‘s football future up in the air, the Steelers have a clear need at inside linebacker. On Thursday morning, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said that signing an ILB in free agency is “a potential,” (Twitter link via Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette). He also indicated that the team likely will continue to restructure contracts in order to create salary cap room.
As PFR’s Sam Robinson noted in his rundown of the Steelers’ top three offseason needs, inside linebacker is a huge need for Pittsburgh this year. The Steelers have fortified the group through the draft in recent years, using a first-round choice on linebacker in four of the past five drafts. Shazier and T.J. Watt panned out, but Bud Dupree cannot be counted on as a high-end contributor and Jarvis Jones is no longer on the roster. Going with a proven commodity over a first-round pick may be more expensive, but it’s probably the right move for Pittsburgh with other areas to address at No. 28 overall.
The Steelers recently carved out $13.5MM in cap space by converting the 2018 base salaries of David DeCastro and Stephon Tuitt into roster and signing bonuses and there are opportunities to go even further. Wide receiver Antonio Brown ($7.875MM), defensive end Cameron Heyward ($9MM), cornerback Joe Haden ($9MM), Shazier ($8.72MM) and center Maurkice Pouncey ($7MM) all have sizable salaries that can be restructured. With that additional space, the Steelers should be able to ink a new multi-year agreement with running back Le’Veon Bell and also add an impact linebacker.
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