Whole Nine Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers Offseason Grade

Pittsburgh Steelers

Justin Rochat
Follow him on Twitter @WNS_Rochat
Follow Whole Nine Sports on Twitter @WholeNineSports

Re-Signings

Jordan Berry

P Jordan Berry – C Impact 10/10

WR Eli Rogers – B Impact 7/10

LB Anthony Chickillo – B Impact 5/10


Starting with the re-signing that will make Steelers fans groan. Pittsburgh made retaining punter Jordan Berry a priority for some reason as he was towards the bottom of the league in all categories. Hopefully Berry could improve tremendously for this move to be justifiable. Eli Rogers now has to step up after the departure of AB as he will see his role increase. Anthony Chickillo is a nice backup that can come in when Watt needs a breather.

Released/Lost in Free Agency

Le'Veon Bell

RB Le’Veon Bell – Impact 9/10

TE Jesse James – Impact 8/10

S Morgan Burnett – Impact 2/10

LB Jon Bostic – Impact 4/10

Bell held out the entire 2018 season and the Steelers didn’t really seem to miss him mostly because James Connor was doing a fantastic job filling in for him. Bell is still highly thought of as one of the best backs in the league so, he still gets a big impact grade by leaving.

It seemed like the Steelers made little attempt to bring back Jesse James who became a reliable target for Big Ben. I would’ve tried harder to re-sign him. Burnett and Bostic were both cut so, I see little impact on this team without them.

Free Agency

Steven Nelson

CB Steven Nelson – B- Impact 7/10

WR Donte Moncrief – B Impact 7/10

LB Mark Barron – B Impact 7/10

All three of these players are solid players and will make a positive impact but, neither are game changers. They should all be contributors and fit in nicely for what the Steelers like to do.

Trades

Antonio Brown

Steelers get: 2019 3rd and 5th round picks – B Impact 10/10

Raiders get: WR Antonio Brown


Some may be reading this grade and calling me crazy because this was viewed as a steal for Oakland landing one of the best wide receivers in the game. However, “AB” or “Mr. Big Chest” had a calamitous offseason. Brown also made headlines as he was benched for the last game of the season. This was due to an altercation with two time winning SB champion Ben Roethlisberger where Brown was said to be “totally in the wrong”. Brown was viewed as a major headache to deal with and Pittsburgh had also drafted a standout wide receiver from USC in JuJu Smith-Schuster a few seasons ago who’s been developing into one of the best receivers in football. Schuster also has no off field issues and is highly thought of as a good teammate. All in all, it was time to move on and the Steelers got pretty good compensation in a third and fifth round pick that could be used to draft another receiver to help out Big Ben. (WR Diontae Johnson from Toledo and TE Zach Gentry from Michigan were selected with the 3rd and 5th round picks via OAK).

Steelers get: 2019 6th Round Pick B Impact 6/10

Cardinals get: OT Marcus Gilbert

Gilbert was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft to be the next left tackle of the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, it just didn’t workout that way. Gilbert was moved to the right side and became one of the more stable right tackles in the league. Gilbert was on his way to becoming one of the best right tackles the game has to offer but, injuries and a suspension set him back as the Steelers decided to trade him away for a 6th round pick. It’s a fair trade for both sides and the Steelers have shown to get steals in the 6th round (see Antonio Brown).

(LB Ulysees Gilbert from Akron was selected using 6th round pick from AZ).


Draft

Devin Bush

Pick 1.10 – LB Devin Bush, Michigan – A Impact 10/10
Pick 3.66 – WR Diontae Johnson, Toledo – B+ Impact 7/10
Pick 3.83 – CB Justin Layne, Michigan State – B+ Impact 7/10
Pick 4.122 – RB Benny Snell, Kentucky – B+ Impact 7/10
Pick 5.141 – TE Zach Gentry, Michigan – B Impact 6/10
Pick 6.175 – EDGE Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois – B- Impact 5/10

Pick 6.192 – DL Isaiah Buggs, Alabama – B Impact 5/10
Pick 6.207 – LB Ulysees Gilbert, Akron – B Impact 4/10
Pick 7.219 – OL Derwin Gray, Maryland – C+ Impact 4/10

Diontae Johnson

I really liked what the Steelers did in this draft especially by trading up ten spots with the Denver Broncos to select Devin Bush. Bush is the exact player that could fill into the linebacker role Pittsburgh has been missing since Ryan Shazier went down with that devastating spinal injury. Devin Bush brings speed and agility to the LB position and should have no problems starting right away. Diontae Johnson is a PLAY-MAKER. In his three years at Toledo Johnson averaged 16.6 yards per catch ranking 20th in MAC history. The Toledo standout receiver got an invitation to the combine and impressed there running 4.53 40 yard dash and a 33.5” vert. Big Ben should be excited with all the weapons he gained in this draft including the bruising running back Benny Snell Jr. and tight end Zach Gentry. Snell Jr. should be able to compliment Connor well as he can get those short yardage gains to extend drives. Gentry could fill in nicely at tight end and fill the void left by Jesse James leaving in free agency. Gentry is a sure blocker and could develop into a solid pass catcher for Roethlisberger.

Justin Layne

On the defensive side of the ball Pittsburgh made some nice value picks in Justin Layne, Sutton Smith, and Isaiah Buggs. Layne could be a day one starter for the Steelers as some believed (including me) that Layne should’ve heard his name called sooner. But, to the Steelers luck he was there for the taking. Smith was a stat stuffer in college where he had a ton of production, the only problem is that he’s under sized. He’s 6’1” and 234 pounds so the only question is, can he be a productive rushing OLB for the Steelers. Isaiah Buggs was the latest defensive lineman to get drafted out of Alabama. He won’t be a stat stuffer for the Steelers but, he could do the nasty work so other guys could shine for the Steelers defensive line. Ulysees Gilbert was selected using the Cardinals 6th round pick in the Marcus Gilbert trade. Ulysees is another undersized linebacker. But, he has lots of speed and could make the team out of camp, possibly as a special teams player. Derwin Gray is a big nasty offensive lineman and that’s about it. He needs to work on his craft as a pass protector and his run blocking ability needs a bunch of work. The biggest reason why he was drafted was because he is a massive human being. 

Overall

Kevin colbert

Many people are overlooking the Steelers because, they no longer have Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. The offseason that the Browns had is also a part of that. However, they still have a 2x winning Super Bowl Champion at quarterback, the most important position in the NFL. They are a winning organization that knows how to properly build a team. The Steelers are one of the most well respected organizations who are ran by a well respected family in the Rooney’s. The Steelers had a solid offseason that is being overlooked by the departure of big names that no longer play in Pittsburgh. They brought in solid players in free agency and also gave Roethlisberger a three year extension. I also believe they had one hell of a draft that could possibly have brought them 5 impact players. The Steelers, I believe, aren’t going anywhere and will be right in the thick of things come December.

Grade: B+