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Playing Mix and Match with the Pittsburgh Steelers Roster: Pre Tampering Period, Scenario 1

So now that the Legal Tampering Period is upon us, it might do some good to see what flavorful combinations we can come up with regarding Free Agency and the NFL Draft additions to the Steelers roster. This is merely a thought experiment about how King Khan might be approaching Monday, and then what he also may do to alter his Draft scheme because of said Free Agent aquisitions. I will be doing a follow up article following the final major waves of Free Agency and before the NFL Draft to re-assess the roster and see if any predictions came true.

Really, it’s just meant to inspire some conversations about who might be the best fit, schematically and financially, for the Steelers. There are some known variables that go into that, such as the fact that the Steelers tend to lean towards players coming off of their Rookie contracts and their play suggests that they are ready to make a solid leap in productivity if in the Steelers system. There is also the fact that the Steelers rarely make a very large financial investment into Free Agent players. This is due to yet another well known fact, that the Steelers prefer to grow and pay their own talent instead of going elsewhere.

Those philosophical ideas have helped the Steelers become the successful organization that they are, but Omar Khan exposed something about that philosophy last offseason. He was shrewd, yet very active in Free Agency, signing a LOT of players compared to previous regimes, and doing so with very team friendly deals, outside of perhaps Chuks Okorafor. I’d still argue it was a fair deal that Chuks just didn’t live up to. Oh, and he was a Colbert guy, so Khan really wasn’t married to him. The Steelers expected him to make a leap in his play to justify the contract, and it just never happened, so they Drafted Jones and released Chuks.

If that turns out to be Khan’s worst mistake, I’ll take it for the next 25 years please!

Many are expecting the “Khan Artist” to come through again, but I am sure other teams will definitely be more wary this year, especially after the fleecing the Bears got for the Chase Claypool trade. I am pretty sure I heard somewhere that the Bears demanded that Omar Khan delete their phone number out of his phone after that one…

… Maybe not, but they SHOULD have.

So for this experiment, I will be doing a scenario involving two paths of acquiring talent. First, I will outline 2 players in Free Agency focusing on most important team needs by position. The positions I would conisder to be most important currently are Offensive Tackle, Cornerback, Center, Safety, and Defensive Tackle/End. The order might be different for some, but the positions themselves seem to be pretty universal amongst Steeler fans.

I won’t be getting into contract numbers, but I will be concious of the fact that I can’t break the bank for a top flight elite player like Danielle Hunter (EDGE), Chris Jones (DT), or Tyron Smith (OT), or maybe, JUST MAYBE Justin Simmons (S). I’ve got major dreams of a Minkah Fitzpatrick, Justin Simmons, Joey Porter Jr, Cooper DeJean backend that would be New School Legion of Boom stuff…

Could it happen? No, it really couldn’t, let’s be honest. The Steelers simply do not do it. Not even in THIS dream world. Not even with an extra cool $30 Mill in the Salary Cap pocket this year.

Secondly, I will use a Mock Draft Simulator to fill in the other needs on that list, going 4 rounds with the Simulator (I want that extra 4th Round pick to play with!). I like to use Pro Football Network’s Simulator because the algorithm throws more trade scenarios at you with some crazy combinations sometimes. The downside is that I don’t think PFN’s player rankings are as accurate as say, PFF’s Mock Simulator player rankings. So please take everything with a grain of salt, again, it’s meant to stimulate the mind to the many possibilities that the Steelers have now that the NFL Offseason Christmas has arrived!

I do try to follow some rules regarding trades on the Simulator. First, I only get one run at it, with no resets. If the Steelers only get one shot at the Draft, then so do I. Second, whatever trades that I might do, I MUST keep the 1st round pick. NO EXCEPTIONS. The Steelers love the 5th year option for their contracts too much. I can remember only ONE time in my life the Steelers ever gave up a 1st Round pick, but it was well MF worth it. As in, Minkah Fitzpatrick… what did you think I meant there? Get your head out of the gutter!!! So anyways, I can trade, and trade multiple times in the 1st round, but I CANNOT give up the 1st Round Pick. Third, I cannot initiate a trade. If no one calls, I take the choices I’m given. Lastly, I do not take trade considerations where the obvious value for either team is lopsided. I want this to be as realistic as I can make it. I will note when I pass on a trade, this is typically the biggest reason why.

With the rules now attended to, let’s get to the results!

Scenario 1  Free Agency – Steelers sign Tre’Davious White (CB), and Mitch Morse (Center) 

I had grand visions of doing 6 of these articles, but after seeing how Free Agency is setting up and how dynamic the list of players is becoming, it really cut down on how many I could do. Quite frankly, it is a reason that this article is coming out so late after my last one. More players who would be good possibilities for the Steelers kept coming up, and coming up, and coming up. I couldn’t put off the article any longer, so ultimately I am reducing the 6 to a 4, two before Free Agency and two after, and I will learn an important lesson about not biting off more than I can chew!!!

I can’t remember a Free Agent list so packed with “Names” as this year’s is. For example, the Bills released three players that could very well walk into the Steelers facility and become starters, after they released White, Morse, and Safety Jordan Poyer, amongst others as well. The Steelers have a lot of options regarding how they can fill in obvious spots of need in Free Agency this year, but in this scenario, White and More both fill major positions of need with upgraded talent at their respective positions. White would come in and plug-and-play into the other boundary Corner spot, and would immediately solidify the position opposite JPJ. That would be an extremely effective tandem on the outside.

Morse would be an upgrade to Mason Cole, but only as an placeholder until (spoiler alert!) the Center that the Steelers draft later in this exercise takes it from him.

Scenario 1 – Mock Simulator Results

Getting an outside CB was a big need, and we filled it in Free Agency. Nickel or Slot are still on my radar, but it now isn’t as pressing of a need as OT or C is, so I might throw one of the 4th round extra picks at one. Center will stay as an early need because of the roster need juxtaposed against the value of the Centers in this Draft, and their expected Draft Slotting.

And here we go!

Round 1 (20) – Jayden Daniels (LSU), QB – I TOLD you that the Mock Simulators should be taken with a grain of salt. Regardless of whatever position I thought I was about to go, Daniels still being here at 20 is way too tempting to pass up. What was even more surprising than that, was the fact that NO ONE was initiating a trade with me to take him. YEESH! The talent is there, does it translate when he makes the jump to the NFL?

Mobility and playmaking for days, with deep throwing ability, Daniels’ biggest question marks come from his ability to read the middle of the field and his lean build (6′ 3″, 205lbs). Think: thinner version of Lamar Jackson. Does the thought of that tempt you? or torment you? As a Steelers fan, it tempt’s me because the only team Jackson can’t seem to beat is the Steelers, and Daniel’s wouldn’t have to play the Steelers, being on their team and all. Notables Still Available: Jer’Zhan Newton (DT), Jared Verse (EDGE), Quinyon Mitchell (CB), Cooper DeJean (CB/S), Jackson Powers-Johnson (C), Bo Nix (QB), Byron Murphy (DT). Yes, Center is the biggest need in my mind, but i’m taking a gamble that either Frazier or Van Pran are still going to be there at 51. If it isn’t Daniels staring me in the face at 20, I’d STILL have gone with Mitchell, DeJean, or Murphy and gambled on the Centers in Rnd 2.

Round 2 (51) – Zach Frazier (WVU), C (Passed on trade, lopsided towards me) – He was there… you’re darn right I took him! If you don’t know why, I don’t think you’ve been paying close enough attention around these parts. He is my Draft Crush #1, the one guy I want the Steelers to (wisely) sell the Farm for. It seems like a match made in Heaven for him to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, and in my own little delusional offseason, it happened this time around. Notables Still Available: Byron Murphy (DT), T’Vondre Sweat (DT), Jordan Morgan (OT), Ennis Rakestraw Jr (CB)

Round 3 (84) – Beau Brade (Maryland), S (Passed on trade, fair value but wanted the pick) – The guy arrives to the ball carrier with bad intentions. In a good way. Brade is 6’0 and 200lbs and a sure tackler, making him more suited to Strong Safety for the Steelers, but he has scheme versatility to be able to play both positions. Plus, he’s from Maryland, so Tomlin will absolutely pick him. Notables Still Available: Cole Bishop (S), Ja’Tavion Sanders (TE), Dez Walker (WR), Blake Corum (RB), McKinnley Jackson (DT). Looking at the list of players available, I could see myself possibly trading down in the next scenario if the pool is similar, I’m not really wowed by anyone there except maybe Corum.

Round 4 (120) – McKinnley Jackson (Texas A&M), DT (No Trade offered) – Plays the 0 Tech, and has good size to control the point of attack (6′ 1″, 326lbs). Jackson is a huge plug for the middle of the defense. Not quite the Big Snack mold like Texas DT D’Vondre Sweat is, he has the mobility and explosiveness to get upfield and create pressure.

Round 4 (121) – Jaylan Ford (Texas), Mack Backer (Passed on Trade) – The Steelers have plenty of options for the Buck position if they want to run it back with Elandon Roberts, Cole Holcomb, or Myles Jack. However, they could use an upgrade to a more athletic Mack Backer to cover Tight Ends and make plays in the back middle. Ford is one of the better Mack backers in the Draft this year, and I AM interested to see if he is a product of having D’Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy II in front of him. That’s a lot of beef on the D Line to be able to hide behind!


So to recap positionally, the Steelers were able to nab one of the better Corners and a stop gap Center in Free Agency, and then in the Draft took a Quarterback, Center, Safety, Defensive Tackle, and then Inside Linebacker. Here is the complete list of new toys for the Steelers:

Tre’Davious White (CB)

Mitch Morse (C)

Jayden Daniels (QB)

Zach Frazier (C)

Beau Brade (S)

McKinnley Jackson (DT)

Jaylan Ford (ILB)

What do you think of the approach? Did we fill in enough of the roster holes to improve the team? Who would you have picked differently seeing some of the other Notable Players that were still available? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to watch out for the follow up article on the other side of the Free Agency!


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