The Pittsburgh Steelers’ high-octane offense didn’t appear to have the same juice without running back Le’Veon Bell in Saturday’s season-ending loss against the Baltimore Ravens.
While head coach Mike Tomlin led the Steelers to the franchise’s sixth division title since 2000, they were short-handed in the AFC wild-card round.
Turning the page to the offseason, FOXSports.com takes a look at the three most pressing issues facing the Steelers.
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Shoring up a thin secondary: The Steelers didn’t select a cornerback until the fifth round of last year’s draft. The glaring holes showed up down the stretch. Allowing a 300-yard passer in six games this season and ranking 27th overall against the pass, the Steelers must add some talent in the back end of Dick LeBeau’s defense. With an aging and oft-injured Ike Taylor entering the twilight of his career, it’s time to retool the secondary. The Steelers gave Cortez Allen an extension this season, but questions remain about his dependability. After signing a one-year deal with Pittsburgh last offseason, cornerback Brice McCain has played well above expectations and should be the No. 1 priority this offseason.
Locking up the D’s centerpiece: The Steelers picked up the fifth-year option on Cameron Heyward’s deal, but it would benefit them to lock up the defensive end this offseason. While Heyward didn’t get much playing time in his first season, he has 12.5 sacks the past two years and is now one of the defense’s most valuable pieces. Heyward continued to get better and has plenty of untapped potential. For a team that is traditionally built on defense, Heyward is likely the centerpiece to this unit’s future. One other player to consider is impending free-agent outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who was given the one-year transition tag a season ago.
Defining Big Ben’s future: Entering the final year of his deal, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could be secured long term. The Steelers are expected to begin contract talks with Roethlisberger’s camp by the NFL Combine, CBS Sports reported last month. Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl champ, likely will be paid among the highest at his position, equating to about $20 million annually. Coming off a season in which he was tied for the league lead in passing yards (4,952) and set a career-high in completion percentage (67.1), Roethlisberger is deserving of a lucrative deal to keep him in Steel Town.