Pittsburgh Steelers Rumors & News

Dulac: Steelers' Top Offseason Priority Is Pass-Rushing OLB

  • Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that the biggest objective for the Steelers this offseason is to find an outside linebacker that can generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Bud Dupree showed some promise down the stretch in 2016, but Jarvis Jones is unlikely to return, and if the club re-signs the ageless James Harrison, Dulac believes it would not make much sense to acquire another veteran free agent OLB. As such, he writes that Pittsburgh could once again address the position in the first round of the draft.

NFL Grants Compensatory Picks To Teams

The NFL announced that they have awarded a total of 32 compensatory picks to 16 different teams. Compensatory draft picks are given to clubs who lose more or better compensatory free agents (CFAs) than it acquires in the previous year. Those picks are slotted within the third through seventh rounds based on the value of the free agents lost.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that there are no more than 32 compensatory picks granted each year. Due to that wrinkle, the Rams (one pick), Packers (one pick), Steelers (two picks), and Cardinals (three picks) will not receive those picks in accordance with the formula. Each of those four clubs will receive compensatory selections for other CFAs lost whose final numerical values ranked within the top 32.

This year, there is one notable change to the compensatory draft selection rules: teams can now trade those picks.

Click below for the full rundown: 

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Top 3 Offseason Needs: Pittsburgh Steelers

In advance of March 9, the start of free agency in the NFL, Pro Football Rumors will detail each team’s three most glaring roster issues. We’ll continue this year’s series with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who won the AFC North with an 11-5 record before falling to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

Depth Chart (via Roster Resource)

Pending Free Agents:

Top 10 Cap Hits for 2017:

  1. Ben Roethlisberger, QB: $18,200,000
  2. Antonio Brown, WR: $13,618,334
  3. Maurkice Pouncey, C: $11,051,000
  4. David DeCastro, G: $11,050,000
  5. Cameron Heyward, DL: $10,400,000
  6. Mike Mitchell, S: $8,135,416
  7. Marcus Gilbert, T: $7,308,500
  8. Ladarius Green, TE: $6,187,500
  9. Ramon Foster, G: $3,591,666
  10. Ryan Shazier, LB: $3,025,020

Other:

Three Needs:

1. Bring in a new linebacker: The Steelers have a history of developing linebackers, but the two of club’s past three first-round selections at the position haven’t exactly panned out (thus far, at least). Jarvis Jones has been the most obvious failure, as the former 17th overall pick has managed only six sacks over four seasons in Pittsburgh. “Failure” might be too strong a word, as Jones is a capable run defender who probably ranks as an average NFL linebacker. But he’s not the type of edge presence the Steelers were hoping to land with a first-round pick.

Bud Dupree, meanwhile, was chosen two years after Jones, and offered a much different collegiate profile, boasting more natural athleticism but less statistical production. He’s been a bit more productive than Jones during his two years with the Steelers (8.5 sacks from 2015-16), but Dupree has earned far worse marks from Pro Football Focus, grading poorly against both the run and pass. Still only 24 years old, however, Dupree showed marked improvement from Year 1 to Year 2, and should see his snap percentage increase in 2017.James Harrison (vertical)

Jones is a pending free agent and not expected back, but the same can’t be said for fellow free agents James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons, each of whom Pittsburgh is working to re-sign. Harrison is the more likely to return, and it could be a matter of time until the veteran pass rusher formally inks a new deal with the Steelers. General manager Kevin Colbert wants to bring Timmons back into the fold, as well, but admitted the 30-year-old could find better offers on the open market.

If Timmons departs, Pittsburgh could need to find a new inside linebacker to play next to Pro Bowler Ryan Shazier. The club would have at least one internal candidate to fill that role, as Vince Williams put up a decent showing in 2016 on roughly a quarter of the Steelers’ defensive snaps. While Pittsburgh likely won’t invest financial resources to bring in a free agent inside ‘backer (unless it’s someone who can contribute on special teams like Jon Bostic or Audie Cole), a mid-round draft pick on the position isn’t out of the question. LSU’s Kendell Beckwith, Wake Forest’s Marquel Lee, or Michigan’s Ben Gedeon could interest the Steelers on Day 2 or 3.Haason Reddick (Vertical)

While adding an inside linebacker could be an area of focus, bringing in a new edge rusher should be a much higher priority for Pittsburgh this offseason. Indeed, targeting an outside linebacker at pick No. 30 will be a consideration for the Steelers, and perhaps even considered a likely proposition. Nearly every industry mock draft has sent a pass rusher to Pittsburgh, and both Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN.com and Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com agree Temple’s Haason Reddick, who put up 9.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss last year, would be a logical fit. Takkarist McKinley (UCLA), Carl Lawson (Auburn), Charles Harris (Missouri), and Tim Williams (Alabama) are among the other prospects that could intrigue Pittsburgh at the end of Round 1.

Free agent pass rushers may also interest the Steelers, although the club is highly unlikely to spend extravagantly to lure a top-notch edge defender such as Melvin Ingram or even Jabaal Sheard — it’s simply not the club’s style. However, Pittsburgh should go bargain-hunting and find another veteran to play alongside Harrison, especially if it doesn’t find what it’s looking for in the draft. Erik Walden and Alex Okafor could make sense on short-term contracts, while longtime NFL pass rusher DeMarcus Ware would also look good in a Steelers uniform.

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Le'Veon Bell Won't Undergo Surgery

  • Although running back Le’Veon Bell visited a doctor last month while dealing with a groin injury, he isn’t planning on surgery, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who adds the pending Steelers free agent would have undergone the procedure by now if it were required. That’s certainly good news for Bell, but it probably won’t make a difference for his contractual status. He’s still expected to be franchised by Pittsburgh, and the tag will pay him north of $12MM.

James Harrison Looking For Two-Year Deal

Pending free agent James Harrison is searching for a two-year deal, his agent Bill Parise told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported yesterday that a new agreement between the Steelers and Harrison could be finalized in “a matter of time,” but Fowler says that talks between the two sides are in fact preliminary.James Harrison (vertical)

[RELATED: Steelers Working To Extend Alejandro Villanueva]

It’s unclear if Pittsburgh is willing to go to two years for Harrison, but they’ve done so in the past — after Harrison came out of retirement prior to the 2014 campaign, he signed a two-year, $2.75MM deal to return to the Steel City. At this point in his career, it seems unlikely Harrison would want to leave the club with which he’s spent all but one year of his 14-season NFL tenure, and Parise tells Fowler that “of course” Harrison prefers to remain with the Steelers.

Harrison, who will be entering his age-39 season, was as effective as ever in 2016, playing on roughly 56% of Pittsburgh’s snaps and grading as the league’s No. 11 edge defender, according to Pro Football Focus. Although he put up five sacks, Harrison’s production wasn’t all in the pass rush, as he scored high marks against the run and ranked as the NFL’s best 3-4 ‘backer in pass coverage.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers, James Harrison Nearing Deal?

The Steelers want to retain veteran edge rusher James Harrison, and “it sounds like a matter of time” before the two sides reach an agreement, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweeted today after speaking with Harrison’s agent.James Harrison

[RELATED: Steelers Working To Extend Alejandro Villanueva]

Harrison, who will be entering his age-39 season, was as effective as ever in 2016, playing on roughly 56% of Pittsburgh’s snaps and grading as the league’s No. 11 edge defender, according to Pro Football Focus. Although he put up five sacks, Harrison’s production wasn’t all in the pass rush, as he scored high marks against the run and ranked as the NFL’s best 3-4 ‘backer in pass coverage.

The league’s oldest defensive player, Harrison has spent his entire career with the Steelers save for a single-season run with the division rival Bengals in 2013. Despite his contributions to the Pittsburgh defense, Harrison has earned less than $2.5MM total during the past two years. He could be in for a slight raise in 2017, but given his age, and the fact that he’s unlikely to join another club, the Steelers can likely keep Harrison around on the cheap once again.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Sign Kameron Canaday, A.J. Hughes

  • The Steelers have signed long snapper Kameron Canaday and punter A.J. Hughes, the club announced today. Canday, 23, won the Cardinals’ long snapping job out of training camp, but was waived following botched snap in Week 3. Pittsburgh already re-signed its longtime LS, Greg Warren, earlier this offseason, so Canaday will likely serve only as offseason depth. Hughes, meanwhile, is an ex-Virginia Tech Hokie who worked for the Bears and Broncos in 2016 but never latched on with a club.

Dulac: Steelers Could Draft Wideout Early

Corry: Franchise Tag Could Be Bell's Best Option

  • Joel Corry of CBSSports.com writes that the franchise tag may be a “blessing” for Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. The former agent notes that front offices are wary of signing running backs to lucrative, long-term contracts, citing the deal signed by DeMarco Murray. The running back franchise tag is projected to be valued at around $12MM, and Corry is skeptical that Bell could earn that kind of money (per year) via a standard contract.

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Steelers Notes: Green, Johnson

  • Tight end Ladarius Green is expected to be healthy enough to play in 2017, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert yesterday told reporters, including Chris Bradford of the Beaver County Times (Twitter link). Green only appeared in six games during his first campaign with Pittsburgh, as concussion issues limited his ability to get on the field. Although he provided 16.9 yards per reception when he was on the field, Green could represent too large a risk for the Steelers to undertake, especially given that his post-June 1 release would clear $5MM in cap space.
  • Steelers linebacker Steven Johnson‘s new deal is a one-year, minimum salary benefit contract that comes with $80K in guaranteed money, per Caplan (Twitter link). Under the terms of the MSB, Johnson will only count for $615K on Pittsburgh’s salary cap.