Roster Moves the Steelers Need to Win the Super Bowl

SteelersWire.com / Curt Popejoy

By G.Stryker
SteelerNation.com

 

Let’s face it, Steeler Nation. The Super Bowl window is closing on this team — mainly because Ben Roethlisberger is nearing the end of his career. Ben is working his tail off to get ready to play this season after undergoing season-ending elbow surgery last year. With two years left on his contract, Steelers fans are hoping he can play at a high level for at least two more seasons.  

This upcoming year may be the last chance for the Steelers to win a Super Bowl in the near future. With all of us concerned about this year’s free agency period, we are forgetting about who will be a free agents next year. Projected starters: Joe Haden, Cameron Heyward, TJ Watt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, and Vance McDonald will all be FA’s in 2021. Role players: Anthony Chickillo, Mark Barron, Tyson Alualu, Jordan Berry, Cameron Sutton, and Ryan Swtizer are also set to be unrestricted free agents. TJ Watt can be kept with the Steelers taking the 5th-year option which they will commit to this year. Some others will be taken care of this year, either by being let go, or by signing a longer, cap-friendly deal. You think it’s tough to sign players that they need to contribute this year? Just wait until the next off-season.

This year’s unrestricted free agents are: Artie Burns, Kameron Canaday, Bud Dupree, Sean Davis, BJ Finney, Javon Hargrave, Tyler Matakevich, and Nick Vannett. Restricted free agents are Zach Banner, Jordan Dangerfield, Matt Feiler, Mike Hilton, and LT Walton. Vance McDonald is also in an option year where the Steelers can retain him for $6.5M. To win a Super Bowl, you have to have some measure of consistency. So considering the current FA’s, these are the moves that I feel give the Steelers the best chance to win a Super Bowl this season.

 

Bud Dupree Must be Re-Signed  

Paired with TJ Watt, this dynamic duo was excellent at rushing the quarterback, getting sacks, and making splash plays. A lot of Steelers fans will point to Dupree’s low QB pressure numbers as a reason to not retain him, but I point to his run stopping and ability to chase down mobile QB’s from behind as the biggest reasons to keep him. Playing NFL MVP Lamar Jackson two, possibly three times next year, it’s important to have a fast, athletic OLB who can keep him contained and keep his improvising to short gains. Dupree is that guy. I see him as the most important piece to keep the Steelers’ top tier defense intact and productive this year.

 

Vance McDonald

The knee jerk reaction of wannabe GM’s is to see his $6.5M option for this year, and say good-bye! Initially, I agreed with this stance, but looking at his ability vs the current TE FA’s (paired with the fact that the Steelers have no veteran receiving options outside of JuJu), showed me that as a receiving threat, McDonald is a must-have. Vance has only missed three games in the past two years, which goes against the incorrect assessment of him being an injury prone player. Thankfully, he’s no Ladarius Green, and though he had an unproductive season last year, I fully expect his numbers to rebound and become a go-to option in a Big Ben led offense. If I were the GM, I’d try to sign Vance to a cap-friendly 2 or 3-year deal that would drop his cap this season by $2M.

 

Ramon Foster

He has to leave. The other spot where the Steelers can save some money is at left guard. If the Steelers drop Foster, they free up $4M in cap space. Some of that space will be needed to retain either Matt Feiler and or BJ Finney. 

 

Javon Hargrave

Definite cap casualty. I really love Grave Digger. Very few 3-4 interior linemen can be a threat to rush the passer while clogging up the middle in the run game. Hargrave is very athletic with tremendous hands. Not only was he stout against the run, but he rotated in with Heyward and Alualu when Stephon Tuitt went down with an injury. What that showed was his position flexibility, and that he will be highly sought after on the open market. With Tuitt and Heyward expected to be back as the DE starters next year, there really isn’t any value in overpaying a NT who will only be in on 1/3’s of the Steelers’ defensive snaps. With that, he is a luxury that the Steelers just can’t afford, especially if they’re looking to re-sign Bud.

 

Anthony Chickillo

A bit of a head scratcher for me when the Steelers signed him to a 2-year, $8M contract last year. He’s not a starter and wasn’t projected to start, so why the big raise for a very good special teams player? This year, I think the Steelers realize their error, and cut one OLB in Chickillo so they can keep their starting OLB Dupree. 

 

Kameron Canaday

Stryker, stop drinking!  ]I hear you, but hear me out. The Steelers pride themselves at signing and retaining excellent long snappers. Mike Schneck and Gregg Warren were the only two long snappers the Steelers had from 1999-2016 before picking up Kam. The Steelers pride themselves on strong consistent long snappers that don’t make mistakes. Kam is that guy. You don’t want to lose a playoff game because the long snapper botches an extra point, right? So Kam is needed on this team to keep the special teams consistent.  

 

Mike Hilton

One of the most underrated slot corners in the league. Not only is he excellent at sticking with WR’s, TE’s, or RB’s in the middle, he always seems to make plays on the ball. When he’s not doing that, he’s a favorite to send on the corner blitz and does a great job finishing plays at the quarterback. He’s a diverse, playmaking slot corner, and the Steelers have to keep him. Since he’s a RFA, I feel the Steelers will use a 2nd round tender to retain him. This would ensure the Steelers would get a second round pick if they fail to match an offer made by another team. That’s pretty high collateral for a productive slot corner, and there is a chance some team might make an offer for him, but I don’t think it’s likely. Either way, the Steelers defense will retain him to ensure there is NO VACANCY when Hilton is patrolling the secondary.

 

Zach Banner

A fan favorite and currently a RFA. He’s shown great promise in the running game as the extra TE in running plays, and I feel he can potentially develop into a starting role. The Steelers should be retaining him on his round status, which would be a 4th round compensation to sign him away. 

 

Tyler Matakevich, Jordan Dangerfield, and Nick Vannett

Luxuries to keep, but will probably be replaced with the draft or from current roster depth. Artie Burns and Sean Davis have played their last games as Steelers.

 

Who do you think the Steelers should keep? Who should they get rid of? Let us know in the comments below!

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