Several former Steelers still looking for a team as training camp approaches

Atlanta Falcons v Pittsburgh SteelersPhoto by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There are still one or two former players on the open market who deserve another shot in the NFL this year

While the Pittsburgh Steelers will return to Latrobe for the start of training camp on July 25, there are still several members of the 2018 version of that group looking for a home this offseason. The names include a former first-round draft pick as well as a Super Bowl winner, but with just days to go until the last few teams begin training, their chances of making a roster in 2019 are looking increasingly slim.

Stevan Ridley

At 30-years-old with a Super Bowl ring on his finger and a 1000-yard season on his resume, it is perhaps something of a surprise to note that no one around the league has space on their roster for Ridley. With limited mileage on his body after four years of relative inactivity, it is hard to believe that Ridley is not capable of being the third choice running back on a depth chart somewhere. A sentiment the running back echoed in a recent social media post.

Coty Sensabaugh

Sensabaugh may not have lit the world on fire with his level of play in 2018, but he was arguably far better than Artie Burns, and he still has a job with an NFL team. Much like Ridley, Sensabaugh is not going to be the stand out player wherever he ends up, but he is still good enough to make an opening day roster as the fourth or fifth choice option at cornerback. His coverage grade from Pro Football Focus last season suggests he still has value this year.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

If there is a franchise still looking for a veteran leader in the locker room who can be a valuable contributor on special teams, Heyward-Bey should be the target. Unfortunately for him, his limited receiving numbers over the past four or five years do not indicate much of a weapon on offense anymore, but the 32-year-old wide receiver could still have a few years left in him on the right roster. While his experience will be missed in Pittsburgh, his hands probably will not. Heyward-Bey is still hopeful of at least one more season in 2019.

Justin Hunter

Making an argument for Hunter’s inclusion on a NFL roster is a difficult one to make after his first six seasons in the league. Despite being only 28-years-old, Hunter has shown little during his career to suggest that he will ever produce on game day, regardless of how well he practices. Seemingly unable to contribute on special teams, the wideout is unlikely to find another team willing to give him a shot in 2019 barring significant injuries to their receivers group.

Indeed, injuries may be the path back into the NFL for all of these players, with possibly a return to Pittsburgh on the cards later in the year should needs dictate additional signings. If you were forced to pick one player for the Steelers to sign in 2019, which one would be your choice?

30 predictions in 30 days: James Conner will eclipse Le’Veon Bell’s greatest single season rushing total with Steelers in 2019

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville JaguarsReinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are approaching training camp, and we provide some potential predictions for 2019.

With 3 days to go until the start of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we continue our 30 predictions in 30 days series with another bold claim for 2019.

Alternating daily between myself and BTSC Editor Jeff Hartman, we will offer our forecasts for the upcoming season. Some will be team oriented, while others will be specific to individual players. Posing an argument for and against our predictions, we invite you to weigh in on the debate as well.

Following on from Jeff’s claim that James Conner will have 17 total touchdowns in 2019, I offer up another projection for the young running back this year

Prediction: James Conner will record more rushing yards in 2019 than Le’Veon Bell ever did during a single season in Pittsburgh.

Why it will happen: In five seasons with the Steelers, Le’Veon Bell surpassed the 1000-yard mark three times, his best single season rushing total coming in 2014 when he recorded 1.361 yards during his second season. In 2019, James Conner will eclipse that number.

Bell hit that target off the back of 290 carries and a 4.7 yard average five years ago, figures that are not too far out of line with the number of carries that Conner would have seen in 2018 if not for his injury. Back-to-back season of 4.5 yards per carry also suggests the young running back could achieve a similar total with the same number of attempts.

Running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league will not hurt Conner’s cause too much either, a unit that is notably improved on the group that blocked for Bell in 2014 if only because of their experience. However, while it might be fair to say that Alejandro Villanueva is an upgrade over Kelvin Beachum, Matt Feiler is not quite the player that Marcus Gilbert was back then.

Entering his third season in the league, it is reasonable to expect to see further improvement from Conner, and with the Steelers forced to adapt to the loss of Antonio Brown, there is every chance he will get more opportunities in 2019 if the offense opts to be less pass happy as a consequence.

Why it won’t happen: In a league where throwing the ball is king, the significance of the running game has declined annually and the total we are suggesting for Conner would have made him the NFL’s second leading rushing in 2018.

Ben Roethlisberger led the league in passing yards last season and there a few teams in the NFL who throw on short yardage as much as the Steelers. Even five years ago, the chances of Pittsburgh running the ball when they need three yards or less were much higher than they are now and Conner is likely to struggle to record the number of attempts his predecessor once saw.

The Steelers outspoken commitment to lightening the load of their starting running has reared its head once again this offseason, and should they finally be able to put that into practice, Conner will never come close to touching 1,300 yards. The two talented young back behind him on the depth chart should also eat into his carries. And while we only have a small sample size to go on, Conners inability to stay healthy so far during his professional career cast doubt on any statistical projections.

What are your thoughts on this prediction? Do you think it will happen? Or are we crazy? Let us know by voting in the poll, and letting your voice be heard in the comment section below!

Picking one player from each team in AFC North to add to the Steelers in 2019

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh SteelersPhoto by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

While most Pittsburgh fans understandably have disdain for most of the teams in their division, that does not mean we do not covet some of their players

While there is very little to like about any of the other teams in the AFC North, not all the players on their rosters are without talent. And as much as their abilities are somewhat tainted by wearing the uniform of a Pittsburgh Steelers divisional rival, there are still one or two names who would look good in the Black and Gold.

Looking through the roster list of each team, there are several names who have become so synonymous with a hated rival that the thought of them in Pittsburgh is enough to turn your stomach. But if we were able to add one player from each team in the AFC North in 2019, these are the three we would pick.

Baltimore RavensJustin Tucker

Given the struggles of Chris Boswell, there might be no player in the NFL who would improve the Steelers chances this year than the league’s best kicker. Automatic on extra points and virtually guaranteed on field goals under 50 yards, Tucker’s consistency is unmatched among his peers. Capable of making attempts as long as 60 yards look routine, the Ravens kicker has more range than any other player at his position.

The fact that he could have been signed by Pittsburgh in 2012 if he had accepted the Steelers invitation to come in for a tryout makes his success in Baltimore a little harder to accept.

Also considered: S, Earl Thomas

Cincinnati BengalsA.J. Green

In a perfect world, A.J. Green would have been the perfect replacement for Antonio Brown this offseason. A polar opposite in terms of personality, Green is everything you look for in a wide receiver and more. Exceptional hands, good speed and a great route runner, the Cincinnati wideout might be one of the more underrated superstars in the league.

Injuries limited him to just nine games in 2018, but when healthy, Green is a perennial 1,200 yard plus receiver, even with the limited talents of quarterbacks like Andy Dalton throwing him the ball. A consummate professional who seems to lack the diva mentality of many of his peers, Green has been surprisingly loyal to the dumpster fire of the organisation that is the Bengals. He deserves to be with a better team.

Also considered: CB, William Jackson

Cleveland BrownsDenzel Ward

For possibly the first time in decades, it is not an instant pass when sifting through the names on the Browns roster. And while players like Odell Beckham Jr. and Myles Garrett might be the top options for some readers, in the context of who represents the most notable upgrade for Pittsburgh this year, the preference here is for young cornerback Denzel Ward.

An explosive player with great coverage skills and fantastic speed, Ward was everything you could hope for from the fourth overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. His two interceptions during his NFL debut against the Steelers should have given Pittsburgh fans a good indication of the talent he posses as well.

Also considered: DL, Myles Garrett

Let us know in the comments section below which names you would have chosen instead. Those of you screaming for Garrett over Ward probably have a good point.