NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

Five Free Agents Pittsburgh Steelers Should Pursue (If They Can Afford It)

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Free Agents Pittsburgh Steelers Could Get

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In a perfect world, the Pittsburgh Steelers would be able to go after any free agent that they desire, regardless of their salary cap situation. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. The restructuring of many contracts and the departures of key players have left very little wiggle room for the Steelers to maneuver this offseason.

There still is the upcoming draft that Pittsburgh has to look forward to. However, the reality is that not everything may be addressed through the draft. Furthermore, in the event that every needed position is taken care of this April, Pittsburgh will still be left with less experience than they had a season ago.

Though there has been a number of players swooped up by various teams in the first couple of weeks of free agency, there is still some notable talent floating around. Some may not be the game-changing players that every team seeks, but looking at the Steelers’ situation, they aren’t in a position to even think of nabbing a marquee player.

If by chance Pittsburgh decides to pursue another free agent to add to their roster this offseason, they should go after a productive role player with some significant game experience that can be brought in for a cheap price.

I took a hard look at the remaining notable free agents that the Steelers could possibly afford to bring to the Steel City. Let’s take a look at who has the potential to wear the black and gold this coming 2013 season, and see if you agree with me.

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LaRod Stephens-Howling

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The Steelers loss a former first-round draft pick in running back Rashard Mendenhall this offseason, and prior to that released running back Chris Rainey due to off-the-field issues. Those two departures left gaping holes in Pittsburgh’s backfield. A player that I feel would be a suitable fit is running back LaRod Stephens-Howling.

The four-year veteran is young and doesn’t have too much wear-and-tear on his body. Stephens-Howling is a small back that could be a good change of pace in the Steelers’ running game. Furthermore, the University of Pittsburgh product should feel right at home playing in his home state of Pennsylvania.

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Julian Edelman

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Pittsburgh’s corps of wide receivers is probably the weakest position on the entire team. One receiver was lulled away by another team’s contract, and another could potentially be gone within the next few days. The Steelers now only have one big-play receiver on the roster, and the rest are aging veterans.

Free agent wide receiver Julian Edelman may not be the big-play threat that Pittsburgh really wants, but his presence could add some much-needed depth at the wide receiver position. Edelman could also be a great option in the slot in the Steelers’ passing attack, and be a contributor in the return game on special teams.

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Nick Barnett

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Yes, I know that linebacker Nick Barnett is on the wrong side of the age of 30 and probably doesn’t have many years left in the league, but he still has proven to be a consistent tackler in the 3-4 defensive scheme. In Barnett’s ten seasons in the league, he’s only had two campaigns when he didn’t record at least 100 tackles (only because of injury).

Just like Edelman would do for Pittsburgh’s wide receivers, Barnett could add depth to the Steelers’ linebacking corps. In addition, Barnett could give Pittsburgh’s coaching staff more confidence in their group of inside linebackers, who are young and unproven (including 2012 third-round draft pick Sean Spence).

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Felix Jones

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Whether it’s Stephens-Howling or running back Felix Jones, either player could be an important addition to the Steelers backfield. Jones has proven in his five years in the league that he is neither a feature running back nor very durable. However, being a part of a backfield-by-committee could prolong his career and in turn give Pittsburgh some needed versatility on the offensive side of the ball.

Just like Stephens-Howling, Jones is a good change-of-pace running back. Jones is a stout running back that can run with power when needed and be a great check-down when passing situations get too hot.

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Mike Jenkins

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As of right now, looking at the Steelers’ projected starting secondary for 2013, the youngest defensive back will be William Gay at the age of 28. The rest of the starting secondary will each be over the age of 30. Free agent cornerback Mike Jenkins, who is 27, could give Pittsburgh’s defensive backfield the youth and experience they desperately need.

Furthermore, Jenkins could give Gay a run for his money as the number-two cornerback and could possibly be a better replacement for the departed Keenan Lewis. Either way, adding the five-year veteran could make the Steelers’ secondary better for the 2013 season.

Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google