While free agency has thinned the Steelers at defensive end and wide receiver, Pittsburgh has secured depth on the offensive line.
Last week, the Steelers brought back center Cody Wallace, and Monday they signed reserve offensive lineman Guy Whimper to a one-year deal, meaning they will bring back eight of their top nine linemen.
In previous seasons, that might not have seemed like a good thing. But, despite the loss of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey to a torn ACL in the regular-season opener, the line got better as the year progressed.
After being sacked 36 times in the first nine games, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked just six times in Pittsburgh’s last seven games. The running game also improved, averaging 99.3 yards per game in the second half after picking up 73.8 in the first eight games.
Whimper, who turns 31 in May, was a big part of that progress. He signed with the Steelers as unrestricted free agent last year following two seasons with Jacksonville.
Though he started just two games – one each at right and left guard – Whimper played in 10 games.
The 6-5, 315-pound Whimper is expected to fill that role again this season.
With the return of Pouncey, who is on schedule to resume football workouts at some point this offseason, the Steelers will have all their starting linemen back for new offensive line coach and former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak.
Munchak was hired after Jack Bicknell Jr. was fired in January after just one season on the staff.
After signing Whimper, the Steelers have $2.4 million in salary cap space remaining.
Meanwhile, the Steelers are trying to address their lack of depth at running back and wide receiver.
The team will meet with Green Bay free-agent running back James Starks and New Orleans wide receiver Lance Moore today. Starks was scheduled to meet with the Steelers Monday.
Le’Veon Bell is the only running back on the roster who has carried the ball in an NFL game.
Moore, 30, had 37 receptions and two touchdowns last year after catching 65 passes for 1,041 yards and six scores in 2012.
Moore is seen as insurance in case Steelers free-agent Jerricho Cotchery signs with Carolina, which he visited Monday. The Steelers want to re-sign Cotchery, who led them with 10 touchdowns last season.
Veteran Emmanuel Sanders signed Sunday with Denver, leaving the Steelers with only Markus Wheaton and Derek Moye on the roster behind Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown