Each offseason, every NFL team focuses on at least one area in need of an upgrade. So what aspect of the Pittsburgh Steelers is looking better these days?
Training camp begins later this month for all 32 NFL teams. So that means another preview series from End Zone Score. Dating back to early March, we have taken time to look at each club’s best offseason addition. We even dabbled into some pertinent and historical numbers and previewed an up-and-coming player for each franchise.
Contrary to popular opinions, no team in the league is perfect. That’s why there’s a constant search for talent when it comes to this game. Each club has done its best to bolster its roster. So in this instance, we are going to take a glance at each franchise and pinpoint the department in which it made the most strides this offseason. We have already looked at the AFC East and the NFC East. You can get caught up right here. Now we are taking a look at the AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
With the exception of the 2015 campaign, we haven’t seen the usually-relentless pass rush that put the oomph in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense in recent years. That’s just one reason the club has struggled in pass coverage over the last few seasons.
Meanwhile, general manager Kevin Colbert has put an emphasis on the linebacker position in the first round the last five offseasons. In April, he began and ended the team’s draft by taking T.J. Watt (1-Wisconsin) and Keion Adams (7-Western Michigan), respectively. The former marked the fourth time since 2013 that the franchise used a round one selection on a linebacker. The list includes Jarvis Jones (2013), Ryan Shazier (2014) and Bud Dupree (2015), with Jones now a member of the Arizona Cardinals.
Watt is a bit of a project but gets to learn behind the likes of relentless James Harrison as well as veteran Arthur Moats. Adams is a late selection but could be intriguing as a pass-rushing option in certain packages. But the real player to keep an eye on is Dupree. He finished second on the club with 4.5 sacks and then really made an impact in the postseason.
In 2016, Mike Tomlin’s club finished with 38 sacks – 10 fewer than the previous season. But after totaling just 13 QB traps during the team’s 4-5 start, the club dropped opposing signal-callers 25 times in their final seven games. Keith Butler’s defenders added eight sacks in three postseason contests. We expect this unit to pick up where it left off in this key department. And another reason for the optimism is a three-man front that rarely saw the field together this past year.
With defensive ends Stephon Tuitt (4 sacks in ’16) and Cameron Heyward (who missed 9 games in ’16), as well as second-year nose tackle Javon Hargrave, the Pittsburgh Steelers could have their best three-man front in years. Add that in with Dupree, Harrison, Moats and an exuberant Watt and Butler’s secondary should be a big-time beneficiary this fall.