Complete Report Card for the Pittsburgh Steelers' 2011 Offseason
Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers are in camp and all of their major moves appear to be completed, it's time to look back and evaluate their offseason piece by piece. It's been another highly successful year for Pittsburgh, and the team looks sufficiently re-tooled to make another run at a Super Bowl title.
Here's a look inside the Steelers' offseason, including grades for each piece of the puzzle.
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Overall Grade: A-
The Steelers said goodbye to a few veterans who were likely past their prime. Among the notable cuts were receiver Antwaan Randle El and tackles Max Starks and Flozell Adams. The Steelers also haven't made a push to resign running back Mewelde Moore, instead seeming content to go with some combination of Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and rookie Baron Batch.
The Steelers could still say goodbye to some players, like veteran linebacker Larry Foote, depending on how the younger players progress in training camp. If Stevenson Sylvester proves he can handle the duties of being a primary backup, he'll likely supplant Foote.
The Steelers did a good job here of hanging on to the people who will carry them into the future and saying goodbye to overpriced veterans who were becoming risky investments. The only intrigue remaining here is whether or not the team will make an effort bring back Starks at a reduced rate.
Welcome Aboard, Rookies
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Overall Grade: A
The Steelers added depth to their aging defensive line, added more competition at corner and added some good talent to the offensive line. They did a good job of managing their seven picks and getting value at each position. It's feasible that all seven players could make an impact at some point in the next two seasons.
Their best pickups seem to be their first two selections, Cameron Heyward (DE) and Marcus Gilbert (OT). Both should have some impact this season, particularly Gilbert, who now seems to be in competition for playing time and possibly a starting job.
The Steelers usually don't have much flash in their draft, but they always get guys who compete and make important contributions. This group seems to be more of the same. They definitely solidified some of their depth problems.
Welcome Aboard, Veterans
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Overall Grade: C+
More like "welcome back" than "welcome," the Steelers once again have not made a big signing in free agency. Their best move was bringing back corner Ike Taylor on a four year deal that seems to seal the fact that he'll finish his career here. They also did a nice job bringing Willie Colon back on a long-term deal. If he's healthy, he could be a major piece of their offensive line for several years.
With some very tempting kickers available via free agency, the Steelers instead went with Shaun Suisham, who filled in admirably last season once Jeff Reed was cut. While Suisham was pretty accurate, his lack of a strong leg is a major concern. Plus, he's been incredibly streaky over his career, not exactly the kind of guy you want kicking in one of the most difficult stadiums in the NFL.
The Steelers haven't replaced backup tight end Matt Spaeth, who went to Chicago, either. Nor do they have anything consistent at punter, where Jeremy Kapinos will battle rookie Aaron Bates.
There are still holes here. There seems to be a lot of openings along the offensive line, but bringing back tackle Jonathan Scott also seems to be the wrong answer.
This is just an area where a lot could have been done, but just didn't materialize. As a result, this was probably the worst performance of the offseason.
Calling Undrafted Free Agents
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Overall Grade: C+
Undrafted rookies are almost always a roll of the dice. Some stick, most don't. That's just the way the system works. But, with some good undrafted talent out there this year, the Steelers seemed to be very timid with their acquisitions.
They didn't go after any of the players who went surprisingly undrafted (Scott Tolzien, Henry Hynoski, Josh Jasper, etc.) or that filled major need positions. Instead, they went with guys with good measurables, like Brett Greenwood of Iowa. That's an interesting way to do business, but it might net a lot less in the end.
This, like free agency, was an area where so much more could have been done, but just didn't materialize.
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Overall Grade: Incomplete
Obviously, you can't give a grade for what hasn't happened. There's still a lot of questions about the roster as training camp gets into full swing next week.
Max Starks is still out there, and it seems like the Steelers could approach him about a reduced salary as he continues his recovery. The same goes for punter Daniel Sepulveda, who's recovering from an ACL tear. Both players were solid when healthy.
The Steelers also seem to have some unanswered depth questions. Who will stay and who will go? That's what training camp is for, so we'll have to hold this grade until the season begins and we see what the final roster looks like.