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Raiders, Cardinals among teams with most work this offseason

The Steelers know firsthand how rapidly the landscape twists and turns in the NFL.

A year ago, Pittsburgh's three-headed monster of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell was viewed by most as the juiciest power trio league-wide.

Twelve months later, Bell is tumbling toward free agency after sitting out the season, while Brown has emerged as potential trade bait following months of angst-ridden back-and-forth with the club.

The Steelers house a pair of rightful heirs in pass catcher JuJu Smith-Schuster and runner James Conner, but losing a pair of All-Pro talents in one offseason would create immediate issues. While Smith-Schuster is a No. 1 receiver in waiting, a post-Brown Steelers squad would be tasked with padding out a wideout room that would suddenly appear shallow, unless you buy into James Washington as a bona-fide emerging talent. Conner, meanwhile, pulled off a convincing Bell impression in 2018, but can he be counted on to mimic that performance year after year?

With Big Ben set to turn 37 in March, the window is tightening for a Steelers squad that can't afford to dump talent while attempting to, at last, topple the Patriots when it matters most. Still, Pittsburgh -- after years of solid drafts and proven player development -- sits in better position than the five teams below with a mountain of work to do before September hits:

Oakland Raiders

Good luck dreaming up a more unrewarding autumn for Raiders fans.

Jon Gruden's much-ballyhooed return to Oakland doubled as an unfolding nightmare in the face of such high expectations.

Trading away pass-rushing monster Khalil Mack and starting wideout Amari Cooper agitated fans -- and stunned the locker room -- but the purge furnished Oakland with two extra first-round picks this April plus a first- and third-rounder in 2020. From a team-building angle, newly anointed general manager Mike Mayock boasts unmatched power and resources, including the fourth overall pick this year, to recraft this troubled roster from the inside out.

The offense requires plenty of help, beginning with an ultra-thin cast of ham-and-egger wideouts that -- outside of an aging Jordy Nelson -- failed to produce one pass catcher with more than 45 grabs. Jared Cook is a solid weapon at tight end, but he's scheduled to hit the open market next month. The Raiders have three runners -- Marshawn Lynch, Jalen Richard and Doug Martin -- also headed for free agency (with Richard a restricted free agent), a fact that magnifies the overt lack of weapons around quarterback Derek Carr.

The defense is begging for bodies at every level, starting with an invisible pass rush that notched a league-low 13 sacks, an outrageous 17 fewer than the next closest club.

With more cap room than all but five other teams, the Raiders have cash and picks galore. It's up to Mayock and Gruden to work in concert -- something Gruden couldn't pull off with ex-GM Reggie McKenzie -- to morph one of football's least attractive lineups into something juicy.

Arizona Cardinals

It's easy to blame Steve Wilks and his jettisoned staff for Arizona's ugly 2018 campaign, but the first-time head coach inherited a roster flush with issues a year ago.

Not unlike Oakland, the Cardinals could use a little bit of everything beyond a workhorse running back -- David Johnson remains entrenched in that role -- and starting quarterback.

Josh Rosen endured a punishing and chaotic rookie campaign under center. He deserves a mulligan and should benefit from the innovative presence of new coach Kliff Kingsbury. That said, I don't expect the noise around Kyler Murray to entirely fade away. While the Cardinals vehemently denied any desire to shop Rosen in favor of the Oklahoma signal-calling prospect, Murray hits the scene as a better fit for Kingsbury's Air Raid offense in terms of arm strength and mobility. Shopping a first-round quarterback entering his second season would serve as highly unusual fare for any NFL team, but what if another quarterback-needy club came calling with a fabulous offer?

The safe money rests with Arizona using the first overall pick in this year's draft on a pass rusher (read: Nick Bosa) to pair with Chandler Jones. Resources must also be spent on a shoddy offensive line that netted a bottom-10 run-blocking grade and the league's worst pass-protection score from Pro Football Focus. Outside of guard Justin Pugh, the Cardinals could be looking at four new starters up front.

Arizona could use another productive cornerback to play alongside Patrick Peterson, plus additional help at wideout. One more year from Larry Fitzgerald helps, as does a healthy Christian Kirk, but the task at hand is finding better protection and weapons for young Rosen.

Miami Dolphins

Miami Herald beat writer Armando Salguero warned Dolphins fans weeks ago about this offseason, writing: "There is pain ahead for you because the team is going to take something of a strategic step backward next season."

While Miami squads of old angled to jumpstart the club with heavy spending and splashy free-agent grabs, this year's strategy is bound to look entirely different. Amid whispers the Dolphins will move on from milquetoast starting passer Ryan Tannehill, that void, per Salguero, will not be filled by Nick Foles, Teddy Bridgewater or anyone else of note. Veterans DeVante Parker, Robert Quinn, Danny Amendola and Andre Branch also loom as cut candidates for a team aiming to build from the inside out under general manager Chris Grier.

It's not what fans want to hear -- and it's not something the franchise is boasting about from the hilltops -- but Miami has the feel of a club settling in for a multiyear reconstruction project. The search for a genuine starting signal-caller wages on, while both lines need plenty of help. It's a fitting draft for adding pieces on defense, while the lineup can be padded with affordable free-agent additions.

It might not be an easy first go for promising new coach Brian Flores, but Grier has fans around the league. A long look in the mirror might serve this team best down the road.

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo's stout defense is one argument to keep the Bills off this list, but the other side of the ball is messy.

Coach Sean McDermott always gets the most out of his defensive charges, but the Bills have as much work to do offensively as any team in the NFL. Rookie passer Josh Allen spent Sundays on the run behind a line that couldn't hold off the enemy while operating as PFF's third-worst run-blocking unit.

The ninth overall pick -- one of 10 total selections -- could be used on nasty Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor or -- as my colleague Maurice Jones-Drew projects in his latest mock draft -- Mississippi wideout D.K. Metcalf.

Both would help a flimsy attack that saw only one receiver, Zay Jones, top 30 catches last autumn. The club's second-leading pass catcher was 30-year-old running back LeSean McCoy, while Allen led the Bills in rushing.

For Buffalo's front office, the task ahead is painfully clear.

Washington Redskins

Our list begins and ends with Gruden-led teams facing an uphill climb.

The Redskins opened last season with a 6-3 start before tumbling into a comprehensive dirt nap down the stretch to finish 7-9. A troubling result, but few teams would survive Washington's ghastly fortunes under center, where starter Alex Smith and No. 2 man Colt McCoy each suffered broken legs in the span of two weeks.

It's unclear if Smith will ever play again, leaving Jay Gruden and friends to reopen their search for a reliable quarterback. That quest is no easy task, with Joe Flacco having been snatched up by the Broncos and the likelihood of mutual interest between Nick Foles and the Jaguars. It's possible the team eyes a passer with the 15th overall pick, but Washington's issues stretch beyond one position.

There were too many games last season where the offense -- with or without Smith -- felt like an old-school attack centered around short-range lobs to backs and tight ends. The wideout position needs help, especially with Jamison Crowder set to hit free agency. Even if he's brought back, Washington must find a way to grow more versatile for it to have any shot in the NFC East.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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