The Cincinnati Bengals are not the only team in the division to improve through free agency. The Pittsburgh Steelers have made some upgrades.
The Cincinnati Bengals have had an aggressive approach to the offseason bringing in multiple talented players to players to fill holes that desperately needed filling. It was unusual to see the Bengals make the moves they did to acquire players like left tackle Cordy Glenn and linebacker Preston Brown as the franchise usually stays away from the free agency outside of small signings. They weren’t the only team that got better through free agency though.
The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the offseason with some questions including whether or not to move on from running back LeVeon Bell. The team ended up spending a second franchise tag on Bell after not being able to come to an agreement on a long-term deal. With the $14,544,000 cap hit of Bell in 2018 under the tag, it was surprising to see the Steelers able to pick up a couple other key signings with their already little cap space.
Pittsburgh was late to the party missing the immediate frenzy of the free agent market but still came away with some solid signings. Waiting out the first week proved well for the team inking deals that didn’t break the bank but brought in considerable talent.
The team picked up linebacker Jon Bostic who spent last season with the Indianapolis Colts. The 26-year-old linebacker had the best statistical season of his career in 2017 hauling in a combined 97 tackles. He signed a two year deal with the Steelers to help cover up the gaping hole of linebacker Ryan Shazier.
The other signing the Steelers made was safety Morgan Burnett. While playing in Green Bay, Burnett proved to be an extremely versatile safety lining up at both safety positions, slot corner, and hybrid linebacker. He will be another addition that will try and pick up the slack of the middle linebacker position when it comes to coverage and sideline to sideline work.
I spoke to Noah Strackbein who is an editor for the Still Curtain, FanSided page for the Steelers, and he is very optimistic about the teams future in 2018 with the moves they’ve made.
"“The Steelers now have the most well put together roster in the NFL following the signings. Outside of a coverage middle linebacker, they don’t have a flaw in the starting lineup. Maybe they can add a better tight end, but Vance McDonald can still prove to be a star. Either way, though, this team has become the most deadly roster in the league.”"
When looking at the contracts that both players were given, Bostic and Burnett, it seems the Steelers came away with a bargain. It gives the Steelers a chance to make a bigger push for a Super Bowl in 2018 according to Noah.
"“To put it simply – they won. How they signed both Jon Bostic and Morgan Burnett to the low budget deals they pulled off is unthinkable. The safety market alone makes you think that signing Burnett to a 3yr/$14 million contract unbelievable. No one saw it coming and frankly, it shouldn’t have been able to get done. But somehow the Steelers did it and they’re now ready to compete for a Super Bowl.”"
The Steelers have a well-rounded roster on both sides of the ball with weapons on each side. The biggest question is whether or not quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be playing at the same standard over the next couple seasons. He’s contemplated retiring after both the 2016 and 2017 seasons and the team has still yet to find his successor. It’s possible that they try and find their future signal caller in this year’s draft. I asked whether they were considering drafting a new quarterback after asking if they had found their future quarterback.
"“No which makes the first round of this draft very interesting. Mason Rudolph might be the best late opening round quarterback available over the next three years. So if Pittsburgh wants to find the answer through the draft, they need to highly consider him at No. 28. Josh Dobbs might still have a chance, but from what his rookie season showed, he has a long way to go before he’s ready to compete at a high level in the NFL.”"
If Roethlisberger is still playing at a high level in 2018 the Steelers will likely be the team to beat in the AFC North. Cincinnati will have to play a great season if they want to take the division from them in 2018. It seems that the Steelers are making a big push with the second franchise tag on Bell and other key signings for a Super Bowl before Roethlisberger hangs up his cleats.