49. PITTSBURGH (8-8)
LAST SEASON: Steelers got long glimpse of what life might look like without QB Ben Roethlisberger when two-time Super Bowl winner was lost for year at halftime of Week 2 with right elbow injury. Backups Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges didn’t exactly cement themselves as Roethlisberger’s potential long-term replacement during uneven season in which Steelers relied heavily on defense to remain in playoff picture until final weeks. September trade with Miami to acquire S Minkah Fitzpatrick means Steelers won’t have first-round pick for first time in more than half-century.
FREE AGENCY: Lost NT Javon Hargrave, LB Tyler Matakevich, OL B.J. Finney. Didn’t re-sign TE Nick Vannett. Cut LB Mark Barron, LB Anthony Chickillo, FB Roosevelt Nix and WR Johnny Holton. Signed FB Derek Watt, TE Eric Ebron, OL Stefen Wisniewski, DE Dewayne Hendrix, S Tyree Kinnel and LB/LS Christian Kuntz. Re-signed S Jordan Dangerfield, LS Kameron Canady, OL Zach Banner. Placed franchise tag on LB Bud Dupree. Traded for DL Chris Wormley.
THEY NEED: ILB, OLB, QB, RB.
THEY DON’T NEED: S, DL, CB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts, Georgia QB Jake Fromm, Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor.
OUTLOOK: Steelers fully believe Roethlisberger will return to form in 2020, but at 38 window is closing sooner rather than later whether team wants to admit it or not. At some point they’re going to have to find successor. Hurts is intriguing because of his athleticism, while Fromm better fits pocket-passer mold. Both are winners, which is plus. Steelers opted not to extend RB James Conner, basically turning 2020 into a “prove it” season. Taylor was workhorse at Wisconsin much like Le’Veon Bell was at Michigan State, not that it stopped Steelers from taking Bell and turning him into All-Pro.
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