Who Stays and Who Goes From Pittsburgh Steelers’ Unrestricted Free Agents?
Steelers' 2014 Unrestricted Free Agents
Now that the 2013 season is over for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they can get a jump-start on things for the upcoming offseason. The Steelers already know that they will have the No. 15 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but the future of their 21 unrestricted free agents isn’t so clear.
Every year Pittsburgh has salary cap hurdles to clear, and this offseason shouldn’t be any different. I don’t know exactly what the Steelers’ financial status is at this point, but trying to re-sign each and every one of their free agents won’t be possible.
Some of these unrestricted free agents played a major part in Pittsburgh’s valiant attempt in making the postseason while others didn’t get a chance to see any significant time on the field due to either injury or just simply being buried on the depth chart. There are even some players who are close to the end of their playing careers, and their age could play against their chances of wearing the black and gold in 2014.
Personally, I feel that if it is financially possible for the Steelers to re-sign most of these unrestricted free agents they should. The team could definitely use depth on both sides of the ball. In addition, most of these players proved that they were worth keeping by stepping in when their number was called.
What I’m about to give you is my opinion of which unrestricted free agents should stay and who should go, assuming that Pittsburgh has the cash to compensate them. Let’s take a look.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller.
Running Backs: Jonathan Dwyer, Felix Jones, LaRod Stephens-Howling
It’s obvious that none of these individuals will be considered as the team’s feature back in 2014. After not making the original 53-man roster, Jonathan Dwyer was brought back after a rash of injuries hit the backfield and finished the season with only 198 yards on the ground. Felix Jones was brought in midway through the preseason in hopes to carry the load while rookie Le'Veon Bell was on the mend but couldn’t behind a horrid offensive line. Assuming that LaRod Stephens-Howling can recover from his torn ACL, he could still be the team’s change-of-pace back when relieving Bell.
Wide Receivers: Plaxico Burress, Jerricho Cotchery, Emmanuel Sanders
The Steelers jumped through hoops last offseason to keep wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders after the New England Patriots offered him a contract. Sanders responded this year with 67 receptions, 740 yards, and six touchdowns (all career-highs), and he showed to be a solid complement to All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown. Veteran Jerricho Cotchery raised a lot of eyebrows with his 10 touchdown catches on the season. Unfortunately, the season-ending injury to Plaxico Burress has made him expendable.
Tight Ends: David Johnson, Michael Palmer
David Johnson’s season-ending knee injury was unfortunate. However, if he can come back at 100 percent, his versatility as a tight end and an H-back would be helpful. Michael Palmer really won’t have a chance to see any playing time behind Heath Miller and Matt Speath with David Paulson still under contract.
Offensive Linemen: Fernando Velasco, Cody Wallace, Guy Whimper
All three of these players had an important part in the improvement of Pittsburgh’s offensive line in the second half of the season. Fernando Velasco stepped in after Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey went down with a season-ending injury. Cody Wallace did the same for Velasco when he was put on IR near the end of the year, and Guy Whimper showed his versatility by playing multiple positions along the O-line. Depth along the offensive front is a must-have going into 2014, and these three players proved that they can be depended upon when needed.
Defensive Linemen: Ziggy Hood, Brett Keisel, Al Woods
Just like the offensive line, the defensive line could use some depth as well. Ziggy Hood did lose his starting job early in the season and finished the year with only three sacks. Brett Keisel did show his age late in the season with nagging injuries, but he still proved to be productive when on the field. Al Woods played well when given the chance and could give some healthy competition to starting nose tackle Steve McLendon.
Linebackers: Stevenson Sylvester, Jamaal Westerman, Jason Worilds
Stevenson Sylvester was beat out by a rookie, and Jamaal Westerman was a late add to the roster in the season. Jason Worilds took total advantage of his opportunity when he was reinserted into the starting lineup on the left side of the defense. Worilds finished the year leading the Steelers in sacks, giving him a great chance of signing a new deal.
Defensive Backs: Will Allen, Ryan Clark
Will Allen more than likely won’t be a starter in the defensive backfield, but his presence on special teams will be greatly felt. Ryan Clark was the team’s second-leading tackler and tied for first with two interceptions. However, how long can the Steelers have one of the oldest defensive starting lineups in the league? With Shamarko Thomas waiting in the wings, it might be time to part ways with Clark.
Specialists: Mat McBriar, Greg Warren
Pittsburgh’s punting position has been filled with different faces over the past few seasons. Mat McBriar was the latest punter added to the list when the Steelers signed him in Week 9. Don’t be surprised to see Pittsburgh bring in another. Greg Warren has been the Steelers’ long snapper since 2005, and this is the one constant that any team should keep.