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Pittsburgh Steelers exit interview

The Pittsburgh Steelers squeezed their way into the playoffs with a little bit of help from the Buffalo Bills in Week 17. The Bills defeated the Jets which left the door open for the Steelers to get in if they beat the lowly Cleveland Browns. They handled their business and sealed a trip to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals.

They won in controversial fashion after the Bengals imploded as they always do. Their season ended after losing to the eventual champions, the Denver Broncos.

It’s clear that the Steelers can score points but can their defense start to get stops when they need them to?  The Steelers are just a few missing pieces away from being a scary team to go up against.

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

STRENGTHS:

Offense, front seven

Offense:

Things started out rough for Todd Haley when he took over as the offensive coordinator, but the last two seasons have seen vast improvements.

The Steelers finished third in total offense and that’s despite the loss of Le’Veon Bell during the season. This offense should continue to be prolific for years down the line. Big Ben Roethlisberger has the best supporting cast he’s ever had.

Antonio Brown is arguably the best receiver in the game and Le’Veon Bell is probably the best young running back in the league. The fact that they have DeAngelo Williams as a backup running back and a talent like Martavis Bryant as a number two receiver is outstanding.

If Williams hadn’t gotten hurt and Fitzgerald Toussaint hadn’t fumbled, the Steelers could’ve pulled off a major playoff upset.

If you’re a fantasy owner, it’s a safe bet to pick almost anyone key player on offense to be a stud.

Front seven:

This is a defense that is far from their days as the “Steel Curtain” but the big men up front can still have an impact. The Steelers managed to finish third in the league in sacks and fifth in rush yards allowed per game.

That means that the guys in the trenches did their jobs really well. Recent draft picks, Bud Dupree and Jarvis Jones are starting to play well, James Harrison continues to play forever and veterans like Lawrence Timmons and Cameron Heyward are solid.

The Steelers have plenty to be excited about when it comes to rushing the quarterback and plugging up holes, it’s the secondary that has issues.

WEAKNESSES:

Secondary

Secondary:

The Steelers one major flaw is a HUGE lack of depth in the secondary. Pittsburgh were third worst in the NFL in pass defense. That’s atrocious considering they made it to the AFC divisional round. The fact is that the Steelers haven’t done all that much to address an old, banged up secondary.

Outside of Senquez Golson and maybe Shamarko Thomas, there isn’t much too look forward to at cornerback or safety. William Gay is 31 and Will Allen is 33, their best days are likely behind them. The Steelers usually build well through the draft, don’t be surprised if they address the secondary early and often.

TEAM NEEDS

PLAYERS TO RE-SIGN:

CB Will Allen

CB William Gay

QB Bruce Gradkowski

C Doug Legursky

LB Sean Spence

DE Clifton Gathers

CB Brandon Boykin

2016 FREE AGENT TARGETS ($8.5 MILLION PROJECTED CAP SPACE)

CB Leon Hall

FS Eric Weddle

FS Eric Berry

CB Sean Smith

G Jahri Evans

2016 NFL DRAFT FIRST ROUND TARGETS (NO. 25 PICK)

CB Jalen Ramsey (Florida State)

CB Vernon Hargreaves (Florida)

S Darian Thompson (Boise State)

S Jayron Kearse (Clemson)

G Germain Ifedi (Texas A&M)

Read Salute Magazine‘s other NFL exit interviews:

AFC East: Buffalo Bills | Miami Dolphins | New York Jets | New England Patriots

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens | Cleveland Browns | Cincinnati Bengals

AFC South: Tennessee Titans | Jacksonville Jaguars | Indianapolis Colts | Houston Texans

AFC West: San Diego Chargers | Oakland Raiders | Kansas City Chiefs

NFC East: Dallas Cowboys | Philadelphia Eagles | New York Giants

NFC North: Detroit Lions | Chicago Bears

NFC West: San Francisco 49ers | Los Angeles Rams

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