Pittsburgh Steelers' 2019 free-agent signings: LB help arrives with Mark Barron

A breakdown of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 2019 free-agent signings.

Mark Barron, linebacker

The Steelers are signing inside Barron to a two-year, $12 million deal, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Here’s a closer look at Barron, who played the past five seasons with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams.

What it means: The Steelers need linebacker help, and Barron provides versatility over the middle. The 230-pound Barron is a converted safety who can help in a traditional backer role or in the dime defense, which has shuffled too many moving parts in the past two years. This move could make last year’s free-agent signings, linebacker Jon Bostic and safety Morgan Burnett, expendable.

What’s the risk: This is a fairly high price for a player who has taken a pay cut and been released in back to back seasons with the Rams. But the Steelers can rely on his experience and Super Bowl pedigree while developing a rookie from this year’s draft. This move won’t replace Ryan Shazier for good, but it’s a positive step.


Donte Moncrief, wide receiver

The Steelers signed Donte Moncrief to a two-year deal on Thursday. Here's a closer look at Moncrief, who spent last season with the Jaguars and the previous four seasons with the Colts.

What it means: The Steelers desperately needed outside receiver help after the departure of Antonio Brown, and though Moncrief won't adequately replace Brown (not many can), he has starter's experience and gives the team flexibility to not have to reach for a pass-catcher early in the draft. He'll likely contend with second-year receiver James Washington for a starting role.

What's the risk: Moncrief failed to validate his one-year, $9.6 million contract in Jacksonville with 48 catches, 668 receiving yards and three touchdowns last season. How much he has left might be a concern. But he has size, speed and three touchdowns in his last five career games against Pittsburgh. Plus, the Steelers rarely give out huge money on two-year deals. Moncrief is likely playing on a prove-it deal.


Steven Nelson, cornerback

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Nelson agreed to a three-year deal worth up to $25.5 million on Tuesday. Here's a closer look at Nelson, who spent the previous four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.

What it means: The Steelers aren't messing around at cornerback, paying big money for Nelson to start at outside corner opposite Joe Haden. The Artie Burns experiment stalled last year and the team had to stop the revolving door of corners. Nelson is labeled an above-average corner by Pro Football Focus, and the team liked what it saw while playing the Chiefs four times in the past three years.

What's the risk: The Steelers started the week with around $12 million in cap space and still have to re-sign quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, so spending $8.5 million per year on Nelson needs to work out. And the Steelers need receiver help in the worst way but went heavy on defense instead.


Anthony Chickillo, linebacker

The Steelers re-signed Anthony Chickillo to a two-year deal worth $8 million on Tuesday. Here's a closer look at Chickillo, who spent the previous four seasons with the Steelers.

What it means: The Steelers value Chickillo as a third pass-rusher who knows the defense well, is among the team's hardest workers and can start games if necessary. The Patriots also made a play for Chickillo, which shows he's got more prowess than his 1.5 sacks from last season suggests.

What's the risk: Some will consider the money steep for Chickillo considering the production, but otherwise there's minimal risk because the Steelers know the player. They need wide receiver help and could have used the money on offense.


Eli Rogers, wide receiver

The Steelers are re-signing Rogers to a one-year deal. Here’s a closer look at Rogers, who has spent four seasons with the team.

What it means: Rogers gives the Steelers an option in the slot and has the ability to beat man coverage with quickness. He won’t project as a starter but can battle for a fourth-man role in the passing game. Rogers battled back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament to catch 12 passes in the final three games last season.

What’s the risk: Risk is minimal. The one-year deal likely doesn’t pay out much, and the Steelers can see the Rogers project through. Rogers caught 48 passes in the slot in 2016 before falling out of favor with coaches and getting hurt. With Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell gone, the team needs viable options at the playmaker spots.


Dan McCullers, defensive tackle

The Steelers are expected to re-sign McCullers to a two-year deal, according to a source. Here’s a closer look at McCullers, who has spent five seasons with the team.

What it means: The Steelers will take another crack at maximizing the potential of McCullers, whose massive 6-foot-8, 352-pound frame signals promise and unfulfilled potential. McCullers had a solid camp last year and recorded an early-season sack but had trouble staying in the lineup, which has been a problem in the past. But McCullers offers depth and the ability to move a pile.

What’s the risk: This is most likely a modest deal, but McCullers’ goal was to get a multi-year contract, and the team obliged. Not much risk involved, other than McCullers has lacked productivity. The Steelers could have gone in another direction if they wanted immediate impact. But McCullers can serve as a fifth option along the Steelers’ three-man front.