The Pittsburgh Steelers ended their offseason program June 14. Here’s a look at how they fared:
Offseason goals: The Steelers set out to strengthen their defensive depth, negotiate with running back Le'Veon Bell, find a solution for a tenuous Martavis Bryant situation, and consider a Ben Roethlisberger successor. No major overhaul was necessary for a team inching closer to Super Bowl contention. They found a new starting safety in Morgan Burnett but were not presented with a clear-cut path to replacing injured linebacker Ryan Shazier. The loss of Bryant hurts, but the team got a third-round pick from Oakland in exchange for the lanky playmaker.
How they fared: Average
Move I liked: The Burnett signing was cost-effective at three years and $14.25 million, and provides the team with an underrated veteran at a position that needed an upgrade. The Steelers took advantage of a weak safety market to get a proven commodity. Burnett is 29, can play either safety spot and has 43 pass deflections in seven seasons as a starter.
Move I didn’t like: The Steelers' plan at the inside-linebacker spot opposite Vince Williams appears disjointed unless first-round safety Terrell Edmunds can satisfy some dime-linebacker needs. The Steelers eschewed top free-agent linebackers in favor of a discounted option, Jon Bostic, who, despite starter's experience, was considered a stopgap by many NFL evaluators. The linebacker draft pool dried up once Alabama's Rashaan Evans went off the board at No. 22, but the Steelers skipping the position altogether with their seven picks was surprising.
Biggest question still to be answered in training camp: How will the Steelers support Antonio Brown in the passing game? JuJu Smith-Schuster must be part of the answer after a 917-yard rookie campaign. But the loss of Bryant as a safety magnet will affect Brown's passing lanes unless rookie James Washington, tight end Vance McDonald and others keep defensive backs honest. Bryant was erratic, but his presence garnered the respect of defenses. That's tough to replicate.
Quotable: "We go all-in every year. But every year we want to win the thing. We want to win it every year. So I’ll never support mortgaging the future to sell out and win, because one critical injury can change that. And what have you done to your organization? Since I’ve been a part of this thing we’ve had one losing season. And, you know, that’s one too many. Fortunately, we have a franchise, Hall of Fame quarterback that ... without Ben [Roethlisberger], we’re probably not winning as many Super Bowls as we’ve been able to. Every year it’s a different challenge. This is the challenge, 2018, to win the Super Bowl. But again, we’re never going to lose sight of making sure we can compete each and every year." -- Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert
Salary-cap space: $5.095 million
2018 draft picks: 1. S Terrell Edmunds (Virginia Tech), 2. WR James Washington (Oklahoma State), 3a. QB Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State), 3b. OT Chukwuma Okorafor (Western Michigan), 5a. S Marcus Allen (Penn State), 5b. RB Jaylen Samuels (NC State), 7. DT Joshua Frazier (Alabama)
Undrafted rookie free agents signed: LB Matthew Thomas (Florida State), WR Quadree Henderson (Pitt), RB Jarvion Franklin (Western Michigan), TE Pharoah McKever (Florida International), DT Parker Cothren (Penn State) CB Trey Johnson (Villanova), DE Greg Gilmore (LSU), C Patrick Morris (TCU), OL Ikenna Nwokeji (Elon), OG Chris Schleuger (UAB), LB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi (Toledo), CB Jamar Summers (UConn), DE Kendal Vickers (Tennessee).
Unrestricted free agents signed: S Morgan Burnett (Packers), LB Jon Bostic (Colts), S Nat Berhe (Giants), NT Daniel McCullers (Steelers), WR Justin Hunter (Steelers), RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (Steelers), RB Stevan Ridley (Steelers),
Players acquired via trade: Rudolph (via draft pick acquired in Bryant trade).