The regular season is over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers sit with the rest of America watching the NFL Playoffs wondering who will hoist the Lombardi Trophy this February. However, just because the season is over doesn’t mean that you can’t look ahead to what the team might look like in the future, and the immediate future is solely based around the free agents that are on the current Steelers’ roster.
I am going to take a look at the free agents on the offensive side of the football for today’s article. This will not only give you the players that could leave, but also who I think will be back in the black and gold and who will be finding greener pastures next season.
Let’s get down to business:
Jerricho Cotchery (WR) – When it comes to offensive production in terms of touchdowns, Cotchery was the Steelers’ best player outside of Ben Roethlisberger with 10 touchdowns. The Steelers would be wise to re-sign Cotchery to a similar contract that he signed two years ago. After such a productive season and familiarity with the offense, Cotchery might look to stay in Pittsburgh regardless of other suitors amongst the NFL. Cotchery could also serve as a valuable veteran for younger wide receivers on the roster.
Emmanuel Sanders (WR) – Unfortunately, Sanders is likely gone from Pittsburgh. Simply put, the wide receiver will demand too much money that the Steelers will be unable to match and secure his departure from the Steel City. Sanders’ departure will leave the wide receiver spot opposite of Antonio Brown up for grabs for young receivers like Derek Moye and most likely Markus Wheaton.
Fernando Velasco (C) – Count me in the group that was thoroughly impressed and shocked by the play of Velasco in such a short time after being signed after Week 1 and not missing a snap from Week 2 till tearing his Achilles tendon in the Thanksgiving night game against the Baltimore Ravens. I wrote an article a while back about how I feel the Steelers should re-sign Velasco and move Maurkice Pouncey to guard, but that is very unlikely to happen. Velasco’s injury could mean that he could be back as a backup next season unless another team wants to roll the dice on the injured center.
Jonathan Dwyer (RB) – Dwyer was cut after the preseason and then re-signed with the Steelers after Isaac Redman talked his way out of a job in Pittsburgh. Nonetheless, I don’t see Dwyer returning based on the fact that he will want a job that will give him more carries and not just minimal touches behind Le’Veon Bell. If no one goes after Dwyer aggressively, the Steelers should bring back the bigger running back for a change of pace back and someone who can run in short yardage situations.
Guy Whimper (G/T) – When seeing actual regular season play at both guard and tackle this season Whimper did not turn into a turnstile as many thought. Whimper showed that he can play multiple positions and provide quality depth. I expect the Steelers to make a run at re-signing the lineman.
Cody Wallace (C/G) – Wallace, like Whimper, proved his versatility, and the Steelers would be wise to try and keep him on their roster.
Larod Stephens-Howling (RB) – Coming off season-ending ACL surgery, the Steelers have to think twice about re-signing the small and shifty running back unless it is at league minimum. Stephens-Howling most likely is expendable with Bell’s success this season at the running back position.
Plaxico Burress (WR) – Looking for one more season in the sun, it might be time for Burress to hang up the cleats as a torn rotator cuff ended his season before it started. I think the Steelers will let Burress look for employment elsewhere with his age and injury history.
Felix Jones (RB) – Jones would only be an option for the Steelers if Dwyer and Stephens-Howling go elsewhere but don’t expect him back in Pittsburgh.