Alfred Morris is the most underrated player in the NFL.
He’s not as physical as the best cornerbacks in the league or as explosive as the greatest running backs.
But his combination of quickness, hands and feet and a relentless effort to improve his game has made him one of the NFL’s most dynamic receivers.
The Steelers need him more than ever now that the best defensive lineman in the game, Lawrence Timmons, is set to become a free agent.
The team is going to be very selective with which players it signs this offseason.
Morris is one of those players.
And the Steelers’ front office has to be thrilled by how well he’s playing at this point.
The team is very familiar with Morris’ play and the way he uses his athleticism and strength to make plays.
He had a very productive rookie season in 2016 and had a big year in 2017.
Now he’s back and looking like he belongs in a more traditional position.
But Morris still has to make adjustments to his game and find ways to make more plays downfield.
The offensive line needs to improve.
Morris has been getting double-teamed all season long.
He hasn’t been able to do much on the edge.
If he can’t be aggressive and stay focused, he won’t have any impact.
This is one area where he’s struggled the most.
It’s not because he’s not athletic.
He has a great burst.
But he’s also had some issues with his tackling and pass protection, and he’s going to have to work on those things if he wants to make a big impact.
The defense needs help.
Morris had a solid rookie season but has struggled to establish himself as a consistent starter.
He was sacked on more than 40 percent of his dropbacks last season.
The problem is he can get too comfortable and overthink things.
If the Steelers want to win more consistently, Morris needs to get his hands on more interceptions and make more tackles.
He needs to develop a feel for when to stay with the receiver in the open field, when to switch to his inside speed, when and how he plays his man in space and when to break on the ball.
Morris doesn’t have the speed or the physicality to be a great corner in the box.
He does need to get better at finding open receivers on the perimeter.
He can make some plays on the move and create some turnovers in space.
He also needs to do a better job with his body positioning.
He looks like he could be an athletic receiver in this league, but he doesn’t play with the same strength and explosiveness that he did as a rookie.
The biggest question for Morris is how the offensive line can help him.
He’ll have to be much better at protecting himself against the run if he’s to be effective in the pros.
The defensive front seven has been very inconsistent in 2016, and it’s hard to say how they will fare when Timmons becomes a free-agent.
The addition of Marcus Gilbert and the arrival of Justin Houston should help, but it’s a different group than the one that had to compete with Morris and others.
The secondary has also been inconsistent.
Antonio Brown and Kam Chancellor were dominant in 2016.
Antonio Cromartie had a terrific rookie season, and the Steelers drafted another big-bodied corner in J.J. Nelson in the second round.
That group had a combined 46 interceptions.
Morris also needs help in the secondary because he doesn’ t have the physical tools to be able to match up with the top receivers in the modern NFL.
This is not an easy decision for the Steelers.
They’ll have more to work with with the free-agency market and the draft.
They have to figure out how to build around Morris and get better.
But this is the season when the Steelers need to build on what they have.