The Pittsburgh Steelers were exposed by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, watching Tom Brady march up and down the field in a surgeon-like performance. It showed where the Steelers need to focus their attention this offseason, and that’s on defense.
Unfortunately, the free-agent class is a bit underwhelming despite Pittsburgh having some money to spend. Outside linebacker and the secondary are primary concerns, particularly in a division that likes to throw the football.
Here are six free agents for the Steelers to target this offseason.
Timothy T. LudwigTimothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
S Micah Hyde (Packers)
The Steelers need help in the secondary, both at corner and safety. Sean Davis and Artie Burns are starters going forward, but there are spots up for grabs. Hyde is a jack of all trades who can line up at deep safety, play the slot and come down in the box as a strong safety. He provides the kind of versatility the Steelers could absolutely use, especially in today’s pass-happy NFL. He can match up with a variety of players, and he wouldn't break the bank to bring in.
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OLB Erik Walden (Colts)
If the Steelers want a cheaper bridge option at outside linebacker, Walden fits the bill. Like Nick Perry, Walden broke out in 2016 with 11 sacks. He forced three fumbles and was Indianapolis’ most consistent pass rusher. At 31 years old, Walden isn’t going to be an expensive option and will likely take a short-term deal. You can never have enough pass rushers, especially in the Steelers’ aggressive 3-4 front.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
WR Kenny Britt (Rams)
The Steelers have Antonio Brown, who’s projected to receive a whole bunch of money this offseason, but beyond that, the depth is shaky. Martavis Bryant’s future is murky, Sammie Coates is inconsistent, and Eli Rodgers is still developing. Britt is a veteran who actually had a good year in Los Angeles, where the offense was putrid. With the Steelers lacking size at wide receiver, he’d be a good complement to Brown – and an affordable one, too. They need a big red zone threat, an area where they struggled in 2016.
CB Stephon Gilmore (Bills)
The Steelers’ corners, namely Artie Burns, like to play press-man coverage. You wouldn’t believe that to be true based on their AFC Championship loss, but it is. Gilmore struggled with injuries and coaching changes the past few years, but he’d be an ideal fit in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have more money than usual this offseason, so bringing in a top cornerback to shore up the secondary should be in the cards. Gilmore is a big, physical corner who would fit nicely Keith Butler’s defense.
OLB Nick Perry (Packers)
The Steelers have a clear need at outside linebacker. James Harrison wants a two-year deal, but he’ll be 39 before training camp even begins. Bud Dupree is a nice piece, but he can’t be the only one consistently rushing the quarterback. Perry had a breakout year for the Packers, and while there’s some question about whether he can replicate that production in 2017, he’s worth the risk for the Steelers. He can give Pittsburgh a nice trio if Harrison returns and be a long-term solution when he retires.
RB Le’Veon Bell (Steelers)
The Steelers’ No. 1 priority of the offseason has to be keeping Bell. They’ll either do so one the franchise tag or with a long-term deal, but there’s no way they can afford to let him go. When healthy (and out of trouble) he’s arguably one of the three or four best offensive players in all off football.