Breaking Down the Pittsburgh Steelers' Defensive Free Agents

By Jeff Hartman
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday I analyzed the Pittsburgh Steelersoffensive free agents and gave my opinion as to whether or not those free agents would return or depart in the circus that has become NFL free agency.

The Steelers are in salary cap purgatory when it comes to their situation, and that is an extreme hindrance on them matching potential money from other NFL teams that might show interest in a particular player or players. The Steelers simply have to rely on signing quality players before they hit their stride from a performance standpoint and hope that some players will take slightly less money to play in Pittsburgh.

Either way you slice it, there will be players that stay and players that depart, and it’s my job to give you insight on who might stay and who might leave. So let’s analyze the defensive free agents for the Steelers.

Jason Worilds (OLB) – Before the season began Steelers fans were wishing Worilds would leave in hopes that rookie Jarvis Jones would be the answer opposite LaMarr Woodley at the outside linebacker position. My how things have changed. Now fans want Woodley gone, Worilds signed or tendered and Jones to get his chance on the other side. When the rubber meets the road, I unfortunately don’t see Worilds returning to the team. He will garner a lot of money on the market and not only can the Steelers not match that money, but they probably can’t afford to even put the franchise tag on Worilds.

Ryan Clark (S) – Clark has played his last season in Pittsburgh, in my opinion, and could have possibly played his last season in the NFL. The vocal safety has become a huge part of the Steelers’ defense and has shown tremendous chemistry along side Troy Polamalu in the secondary. However, the safety’s play has decreased tremendously, and with the Steelers looking to go younger at the safety position with rookie Shamarko Thomas, the writing is on the wall for Clark’s departure.

Brett Keisel (DE) – The man that has made a fortune off his facial hair might be staring retirement in the face. Brett Keisel has been a mainstay on the defensive line dating back to the Super Bowl 40 victory. When Aaron Smith retired, Keisel was the one who took over and solidified the defensive line. With Keisel’s age increasing along with injuries it is obvious that the Steelers will simply hope that Keisel follows Hines Ward‘s lead and steps away from the game always being a Steeler.

Ziggy Hood (DE) – The former first round pick has been underwhelming throughout his first four years in the NFL, but I look for the Steelers to try and bring Hood back next season. The fact that Hood hasn’t performed at a high level and that he knows the Pittsburgh system could all benefit the Steelers. Hood has shown some glimpses of potential this season, and alongside Cam Heyward he could help anchor the opposite side of the defensive line.

Al Woods (NT / DE) – Wood’s future with the team could be directly linked to Ziggy Hood’s future. Most likely, if the Steelers are able to re-sign Hood they won’t aggressively go after Woods for an extension, but if Hood decides to go elsewhere, then look for the Steelers to try and re-sign Woods for cheap knowing that he not only can play the end position but also nose tackle if needed.

Will Allen (S) – Allen did not start the season on the Steelers’ roster, but when he was released the Steelers picked him off the waiver wire and he proved to be a very important part of the 2013 season. When Shamarko Thomas got injured it was Allen who stepped in and played safety during sub packages, and he was extremely effective in doing so. My thinking is the Steelers make a run at signing Allen to a one or two-year deal and have him take Ryan Clark’s place in the secondary while Thomas will take over in sub packages.

Stevenson Sylvester (ILB) – The special teams player and inside linebacker most likely won’t be returning unless taking the league minimum.

Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for and  also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on  Twitter @BnGBlitz and add him on Google+.

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