The Pittsburgh Steelers season did not end the way they wanted but it’s time to look to next season. Just as the season was anything but boring, the offseason should be the same. Here are the biggest questions heading into the offseason:
1) Will Le’Veon Bell get a long term deal?
The Steelers and Bell are negotiating a long term deal and hope to have one finalized by the end of February. What if it doesn’t happen? The Steelers have the option of putting the Franchise Tag on Bell again. If they do that, he would make $14.5 million guaranteed for the year. Bell really doesn’t want to do that again, even going as far as saying he’d retire if the Steelers put the Franchise Tag on him again. Even if he doesn’t retire, his holdout last year was a major distraction.
2) How do they address their biggest need – inside linebacker?
The loss of Ryan Shazier to a spinal injury basically killed the Steelers season. Finding his replacement should be their number one priority. The Steelers aren’t known for making big acquisitions in free agency, so look for them to spend a high draft pick on an inside linebacker.
3) Is Mike Mitchell gone?
Mitchell did not have the greatest season, and he’ll turn 31 this offseason. He’s also on the last year of his contract and his cap hit would be $8.1 million so the chances of him sticking around are not good. Look for the Steelers to draft a safety or find one in free agency.
4) Does the defensive line need an upgrade?
The Steelers gave large contracts to defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt but they still had a problem against the run. Nose tackle Javon Hargrave is good but undersized. It might be best to draft or acquire a Casey Hampton-type to solidify the defensive line.
5) Will they need replacements at cornerback and outside linebacker?
Artie Burns at times this past season looked lost. Is it time to call him a first-found bust? Bud Dupree has only 14 1/2 sacks in 4 seasons but he was asked to cover more. The Steelers must decide by May if they’re going to pick up the 5th year of Dupree’s contract.