Why Steelers should re-sign Kelvin Beachum, target Eric Weddle

Ben Stockwell previews free agency for the Pittsburgh Steelers, identifying who to re-sign, let walk, and target.

| 7 months ago
(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Why Steelers should re-sign Kelvin Beachum, target Eric Weddle


Even when dealing with injuries at crucial positions, the Steelers’ 2015 season should be deemed a success; Pittsburgh advanced to the playoffs, even though Ben Roethlisberger missed time during the regular season, and Le’Veon Bell was on injured reserve. An improbable win over a divisional rival before falling to the eventual champions is a strong effort for a team with such clear defensive flaws.

An offensive juggernaut, the Steelers’ task this offseason is clear: upgrade their defense, elevating it back to its former glories. Here, we’ll examine who the Steelers should re-sign, let walk, and target on the open free agent market as they look to step forward in 2016.

Re-sign

LT Kelvin Beachum

Beachum’s injury-shortened 2015 season may offer some pause, but his trajectory over the first three years of his career should offer the Steelers all the incentive they need to lock up their left tackle for the long term. His performance in 2014 earned him a spot among the top 60 of our top 101, and letting a tackle of that caliber walk would be unwise. Beachum improved in pass protection in each of his first three seasons, and showed promising signs of maintaining his 2014 form in the first five weeks of the 2015 season.

G Ramon Foster

The inconsistency in Foster’s performance over the last five years has been as a run-blocker, but his form as a pass-protector has been consistently strong. Foster surrendered just 31 pressures in 18 games this season, and had his best season of his career as a run-blocker. The Steelers’ offensive line has been on an upward trajectory in recent seasons, and keeping that line intact will only work to the benefit of their skill players.

CB Brandon Boykin

The Steelers made a smart acquisition during training camp with their trade for one of the league’s best slot cornerbacks, and then proceeded to leave Boykin on the bench until Week 13. From that point forward, Boykin earned a top-10 coverage grade among all cornerbacks, allowing a passer rating of 65.0 on his 21 targets. Boykin may not be able to play outside, but as a slot corner, there are few capable of playing on his level in what is an increasingly important battleground in the NFL.

S Will Allen

Allen brought surprising value as a run-defender and blitzer in a career year at age 33, and with a history as a solid special-teamer, there is value in retaining Allen on a short-term deal. His 10 pressures were fifth-most among safeties this season, and his 32 stops tied for second. Refining a role for Allen to contribute by attacking the line of scrimmage and working on special teams would still bring value for the Steelers on defense.

Let walk

CB William Gay

Now north of 30 and with his performance in coverage trending down over recent seasons, it may well be time for the Steelers to bid farewell to William Gay. Missing 26 tackles over the last two seasons (13 each year), Gay slipped from allowing 9.5 yards-per-reception in 2013 to allowing 14.2 and 11.0 in the last two seasons, with five touchdowns allowed in 2014. As the Steelers aim to get younger on defense, Gay may be the next veteran out the door.

CB Antwon Blake

In 2015, Blake posted a league-high 1,074 yards allowed in coverage, eight touchdowns allowed (tied for second-most in the league), 28 missed tackles, a passer rating of 117.0 allowed, and our second-lowest coverage grade (ahead of only Brandon Browner). There’s not much more that you need to say to justify why the Steelers should have no interest in bringing Blake back.

LB Sean Spence

Since being drafted in 2012, Spence has only managed 804 snaps over the last two seasons after missing the first two years of his career; unfortunately, what we have seen has not been encouraging. With Lawrence Timmons advancing in years, the Steelers will be tempted to keep around a linebacker with familiarity of their scheme, but no aspect of Spence’s play over the last two seasons suggests he should be part of any succession plan. He has missed 13 tackles and earned a game grade above +1.0 in only three of his 30 career games.

Target

S Eric Weddle

The Steelers are, as ever it seems, not blessed with a massive amount of cap space, so shrewd investments will be key until moves are made to free up money. Though the Steelers need to get younger on defense, putting the right veteran leadership and performance in place is also important, and Eric Weddle could certainly help the Pittsburgh secondary. Paired with Mike Mitchell, Weddle would bring versatility and unrivaled quality to the Steelers’ secondary, offering a sure pair of hands to support both a fledgling crop of cornerbacks and support a linebacker group that attacks aggressively and can leave gaps that need to be plugged by the secondary unit to cut off big plays.

 

More NFL team free agency previews:

Baltimore Ravens

– Cincinnati Bengals

– Cleveland Browns

– All NFL teams

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • Alex K

    Surprised to see the negative comments on Gay. By the eye test he looked like our best CB this year, not to mention that PFF labelled him as the only starting CB to not give up a TD this year.

    The number of snaps that Blake got last year is indefensible. The coaches should have never let him play enough to get those kinds of numbers.

  • kdubs412

    Won’t surprise me at all to see the Steelers do the exact opposite of the keep/let walk sections.

  • Snovi

    No way on Allen or Beachum. AV will get better under Munchak – he’s only scratched the surface. Beachum had his chance last year and blew it.

  • [email protected]

    The comments relative to keeping Foster, Beachum, and Boykin are no-brainers. OF COURSE, we would like to keep all those guys!
    Although better than usual, our cap space is still relatively restricted and most Steelers experts believe it will not be possible to keep both Beachum and Foster, let alone all three.
    Personally, I would like to see the Steelers keep Beachum and Boykin assuming 2 of the 3 can be kept within the cap.

    • Snovi

      They’ve already paid Pouncey and Gilbert, and DeCastro is next. You can’t pay all five linemen market value. Give AV a full offseason as the #1 with Munch and he’ll be better.

  • PittsburghSports

    Hey Ben, why don’t you take a stab at working out all the contracts and fitting them under the cap if that’s what you think we should do. Heck, maybe we should target Von Miller and Josh Norman too.

    • crosseyedlemon

      Forget Miller and Norman….the Steelers should target someone who can design a uniform that won’t cause everyone to laugh before going blind.

      • PittsburghSports

        Shutup you friggin idiot.