Steelers Players That Deserve to Stick Around and Those That Are Expendable Part 1: Offense

Nov 3, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson (17) makes the catch and runs the ball for a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Steelers 55-31. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

I hate to be negative here, but with the current state of the Pittsburgh Steelers at 2-6, the chances of making the playoffs do not look great with teams like the Packers, Lions, Bengals, and no easy games as teams like the Ravens, the Bills, and the Browns all look to put up very good fights. Following a huge loss to the Patriots, the arrow seems to be pointed down for the Steelers. What does this mean for the rest of the season with the playoffs basically out of the picture? All of the players and coaches, even Kevin Colbert are auditioning for jobs for the 2014 season and beyond.

While many fans feel it is necessary just to clean house, I feel your pain, but that would be foolish for the decision makers of the team. Yes, talent is lacking at many positions for the Steelers, but make no mistake, there is definitely some talent on the roster. Below I have compiled a list by position of players that so far have made a case to be kept, and a list of players that have so far looked expendable.

 

QB:

Keep: Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones

With a rocky start early in the season, Ben Roethlisberger has played at a higher level in recent weeks, after being a turnover machine. I can’t honestly blame him at times for poor play with an offensive line that has not lived up to their potential. As far as Gradkowski and Jones go, it’s a positive thing that they have not yet played, and I have faith Gradkowski would do a serviceable job if his number was called upon. Landry Jones is a product at this point, so there is no need for concern…just yet.

RB: 

Keep: Le’Veon Bell, Jonathan Dwyer

Expendable: Felix Jones

After missing the first quarter of the season, while he hasn’t played to the level of Giovanni Bernard or Eddie Lacy, Bell has shown flashes, and in week eight against the Ravens, he looked like the feature back the Steelers envisioned when they drafted him. Of course, he has several areas he needs to improve on, but the arrow looks to be pointed up for the rookie out of Michigan State.

Regarding Dwyer, if you would have asked me to write this list back in August, Dwyer would have been on the expendable list. But ever since he was cut, Jonathan Dwyer has run like a man trying to prove a point, and has really embraced his role of a change of pace running back. He has hit the hole extremely hard, and has shown great burst. He has complemented Bell quite well. Felix Jones however has been average at best, and will not most likely return next season for the sole purpose that there are most likely better options.

WR: 

Keep: Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, Markus Wheaton, Derek Moye

Expendable: Emmanuel Sanders

This season, Antonio Brown has made the Steelers look extemely smart for signing him instead of Mike Wallace. He now leads the league in receptions with 61, and he looks to have a career high in yardage and touchdowns as well. While many of the recent draft picks have not panned out for the Steelers, the 6th round gem the Steelers found in Antonio Brown has turned out to look pretty smart.

After a career game against the Patriots, Jerricho Cotchery is making a huge case to be resigned this upcoming offseason. The sure-handed Cotchery has almost replaced Heath Miller as Roethlisberger’s security blanket, and he is starting to force teams to be accountable for him. After the drafting of Markus Wheaton, many people saw Cotchery dropping down the depth chart, but Cotchery has done just the opposite, almost making more of a case than Emmanuel Sanders. While Wheaton has not lived up to expectations, for the limited time he has seen, he has a ton of potential, and looks to be a bigger part of the offense moving forward. Almost the same can be said about Derek Moye who has made a few mistakes, but has also made some big plays for the Steelers. He also looks to be more of a factor going forward.

Speaking of Emmanuel Sanders, I am by no means saying Sanders is a bad receiver. Like Antonio Brown, he is on pace for career highs in yards and receptions. But, for what he has done for the Steelers up until this point in his career, he has not played to the level that a team next year will most likely pay him. I would personally like Sanders to stay a Steeler for years to come, as he has a unique skill set, but the harsh reality is, the Steelers can’t afford the price he will be overpaid for.

TE: 

Keep: Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, David Johnson

Expendable: David Paulson, Michael Palmer, Richard Gordon

I don’t think I have to convince anyone that Heath Miller is a vital part of this team. No, he hasn’t preformed great coming off of re-constructive knee surgery, but that is expected. Coming off of a season with a career high eight touchdowns, Heath Miller will be around for at least another season.

While Matt Spaeth has yet to play a snap for the Steelers since 2010, I believe he will be a valuable addition when he comes back. David Johnson also surprised me this season. playing at a very respectable level, and he should also be a solid contributor next season, if the Steelers can resign him of course.

David Paulson, on the other hand, has been absolutely terrible. His blocking has been terrible, and he has barely made any contributions in the passing game. The only time David Paulson has made an impact is when he has made mistakes, which will not win you a job in the NFL. Michael Palmer and Richard Gordon are just bodies at this point for special teams and injury, so I will be surprised if they are to return next season.

Offensive Line: 

Keep: Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Kelvin Beachum

Expendable: Marcus Gilbert, Guy Whimper, Mike Adams, Cody Wallace, Mike Adams, Fernando Velasco

I don’t think it comes as a surprise that the offensive line is the position with the most expendable players. If this tells you anything, Roethlisberger has already been sacked 31 times, when he was only sacked 30 times, all of last season. David DeCastro started out slow, but has played at a Pro bowl level as of late. At the other guard position, Foster has been his usual consistent self, above-average at pass blocking, and average at run blocking. Both players have solidified the interior of the offensive line, while the outside continues to be a constant turnstile. You may be wondering, what is Fernando Velasco doing on the expendable list? I agree he has played at a very solid level this season, after taking over for the injured Pouncey, but that’s actually the biggest issue. He has played too well, so the cap-strapped Steelers will not be able to re-sign him next offseason, since another team looking for a starting center will be able to pay much more than what the Steelers would offer him as a backup.

Beachum hasn’t been great at left tackle, but because of the fact that he can play any position on the line makes him a non-expendable player. Marcus Gilbert is a bubble player in my mind, since he has shown flashes, but by no means is a must keep player. I actually believe it is in the Steelers best interest to let him, Mike Adams, and Kelvin Beachum battle it out for the right tackle position, and draft a good left tackle. Who knows if this really happens, but competition usually brings out the best in people.

Guy Whimper and Cody Wallace are just backups, and could return, but at this point, there is no need for the Steelers to re-sign them, since they could find better options in free agency or in the draft.

Final Thoughts: 

Like I stated before, a little past the halfway point, there is still a lot of the season left for these players to change my mind, as well as most importantly, their employer’s mind, but from where it stands now, these players need to step up their game if they want to return to the black-and-gold in 2014.

Look for Part Two On the Defense In the Near Future

 

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  • Dom DiTolla

    I hate to break it to you, but you’re not being “negative” man. Each unit needs a bit of an overhaul, and this was, as usual, another awesome post.

    Disagree a bit with Velasco since I think he would be great depth down the road, but since they are cap-strapped they probably won’t be able to sign him once he hits FA. I am just worried about injuries and poor-play down the road, especially if they need to move Beachum to tackle or tight end in a pinch. Thus, that’s my reasoning on bringing Velasco back next year.

    Also think they’ll need to keep either Adams or Gilbert. They should try to draft a LT and then let those two duke it out for the starting gig, and then send the loser home. Neither player had much fire lit under them to win a starting gig early in their careers, and both “won” them by default through injuries. Of course, if neither responds, then they should cut both.

    • Nick Kelly

      In a perfect world, they resign Velasco. Fantastic depth and an average starter. But, like you said, they most likely won’t be able to afford him, and another team will want him to start most likely. The battle between Adams, Beachum, and Gilbert could be a good one, with maybe Matthews or Lewan on the other side. They may finally have a very good line possibly looking like (left to right) Jake Matthews, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Gilbert(Or Adams)

      • bk

        I’m sure they will win just enough games to miss out on Matthews..Lewan has not been as good as advertised…maybe the kid from Bama….

        • Nick Kelly

          Having watched a decent amount of film on all three, Lewan has taken a step back since 2012. Still a top 15 prospect in my opinion, and because of left tackle needy teams like the Steelers, he will most likely go top 10. Lewan could go higher if he has a great combine as well as a solid showing at the senior bowl, like Eric Fisher this past season.

          The Bama tackle is not a top 15 pick in my opinion, but that could change by April

        • Dave Bradley

          If we cannot get Matthews, I hope the steelers look at the LT @ Florida St. The kid is a beast:Cameron Erving, OT, FSU, RJR, 6-5,320lbs

    • skyfire322

      I really don’t follow the whole cap thing too much, but with the probable retirement of a few players this offseason, won’t that relieve cap room for Valesco? Even if it’s a short term contract?

      Maybe it’s just me (and take me to the gallows if you’d like, I’ll understand) but right now, I’d rather see Valesco at center and Pouncey moved to left or right guard.

  • Carl Eagan

    Velasco is by far the best center on the team not just now but he would have been the past couple of years and he would be going forward but we are talking about fools like Tomlin and Colbert who thought Willie Colon was worth 20+ million and claimed he was the best lineman on the team and they didn’t even mention his ability to kill any drive at any time which he excelled at. So Velasco won’t be resigned! Releasing Adams and Gilbert which would upgrade the line but won’t happen. Because thats the same as admitting they screwed up drafting them always remember Tomlin’s ego is the most important aspect of the team to protect. Being in the position to draft an elite left tackle is rare but as long as Tomlin is coaching and participating in the draft the Steeler’s will be in the top 10 draft order for years to come.

    • Nick Kelly

      Have you seen Velasco try to run block? He is nowhere near as good as Pouncey in run blocking. While Pouncey has not played up to expectation of an all-pro center, he is in the top half of centers in the league. But, Velasco has done a nice job in his place

  • Dave Bradley

    I agree with 99% of your Steelers who are expendable list. I would like to see Fernando
    Velasco stick around after Puoncey gets back. I would try Velasco at left guard and he is a hell of insurance policy for the center position.

    • Nick Kelly

      Velasco would add great depth, but don’t undervalue Foster too much, and you never know how Velasco would play at guard. Look at Doug Legursky for the Steelers. Struggled big time at guard but was a decent center.

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