Key Offseason Changes
The Steelers have had an offseason to remember. After consecutive 8-8 seasons with no playoff appearances the Steelers finally took this offseason to make the changes that were maybe necessary a few years ago. With that came some new additions and key departures.
It could be debated, and it has been all offseason, that the Steelers most important offseason additions have come from the coaching staff rather than the playing field. The Steelers hired former Tennessee Titans head coach and Hall of Fame offensive lineman Mike Munchak to coach the offensive line after parting ways with Jack Bicknell Jr. They also essentially swapped running back coaches with the Minnesota Vikings as James Saxon joined the team to coach the running backs after Kirby Wilson left in hopes of better opportunities. The Steelers also hired former linebacker Joey “Peezy” Porter as a defensive assistant to ignite the linebackers with the fire he used to play with.
On the playing field, the Steelers signed nine free agents from other teams in an active free agency season as we’ve seen in a long time in Pittsburgh. The most notable signings included safety Mike Mitchell and defensive tackle Cam Thomas as well as LeGarrette Blount and Lance Moore for the offense Mitchell is expected to pair up with Troy Polamalu at safety and Cam Thomas is providing depth on the defensive line as he can play both end and nose. LeGarrette Blount has already paired nicely (probably a bit too nicely) with Le’Veon Bell to create LeBackfield for the Steelers. Lance Moore provides a veteran presence to a very young wide receiving group.
The infusion of youth didn’t stop with free agency, the Steelers went into the 2014 NFL Draft with their sights aimed at finding playmakers who can immediately contribute to the team. With that they found one in first-round pick linebacker Ryan Shazier from Ohio State. Shazier will join second-round pick, defensive end Stephon Tuitt, to become the two first rookies to start on a Dick LeBeau defense since he came back to the Steelers in 2003. The Steelers fortified their front seven of the defense with the draft and free agency but even found room to welcome back Brett Keisel into the fold as he was signed towards the end of preseason.
On the offensive side of the ball the Steelers drafted the speedy Dri Archer, who will serve as a kick returner/running back/wide receiver. The Steelers also found a tall, speedy target for Ben Roethlisberger in Martavis Bryant. The wide receiving corps is also joined by former first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was picked up in free agency and provided enough production in the preseason to make the roster.
The Steelers departures this offseason were many. The team cut LaMarr Woodley at the beginning of free agency. Through free agency they lost both Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery. They also let players like Jonathan Dwyer, Al Woods, Ziggy Hood, and Ryan Clark leave via free agency. The Steelers actually entered the free agency period with no wiggle room under the salary cap but after restructuring contracts and cutting LaMarr Woodley they were able to have more of an active free agency than fans can remember in years.
Going into the preparations for Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns, here is what the Steelers roster looks like:
Quarterbacks: Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Gradkowski, Landry Jones
Offensive Line: Mike Adams, Kelvin Beachum, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Chris Hubbard, Wesley Johnson, Maurkice Pouncey, Cody Wallace
Defensive Line: Cam Heyward, Brett Keisel, Daniel McCullers, Steve McLendon, Cam Thomas, Stephon Tuitt
Linebackers: Terence Garvin, Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats, Ryan Shazier, Sean Spence, Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, Jason Worilds
Running Backs: Dri Archer, Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, Will Johnson
Secondary: Cortez Allen, Will Allen, Antwon Blake, William Gay, Robert Golden, Brice McCain, Mike Mitchell, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Shamarko Thomas, B.W. Webb
Wide Receivers: Antonio Brown, Justin Brown, Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Lance Moore, Markus Wheaton
Tight Ends: Heath Miller, Michael Palmer, Matt Spaeth
Specialists: Shaun Suisham, Greg Warren, Brad Wing
The Steelers also added 10 players to their practice squad including:
- WR C.J. Goodwin
- WR Derek Moye
- OL Alejandro Villanueva
- DB Shaquille Richardson
- DB Ross Ventrone
- DL Josh Mauro
- DL Nick Williams
- RB Josh Harris
- TE Rob Blanchflower
- LB Howard Jones