NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

5 Underrated Free Agents Pittsburgh Steelers Should Target This Offseason

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5 Underrated Free Agents The Pittsburgh Steelers Should Target This Offseason

Pittsburgh Steelers
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the 2013 season on a high after a miraculous 6-2 second half of the season that nearly saw them make the postseason. However, there are holes on this roster that will need to be filled, and fans can't be foolish enough to think that the gaps can be plugged simply through the NFL Draft.

The Steelers rarely dabble in free agency, but when they do, it normally pays off. Some of the best free agent signings that the Steelers have made in the past 10 years would be players like James Farrior being brought in from the New York Jets, Ryan Clark being signed from the Washington Redskins, and Flozell Adams anchoring the left tackle position all the way to Super Bowl 45.

When the Steelers make moves, they typically pay off; however, the cap-strapped Steelers currently find themselves in a $9.6 million hole in terms of the NFL's salary cap standards. Throw in the horrendous contracts of players like LaMarr Woodley and Ike Taylor, and you see more trouble brewing on the horizon.

The Steelers typically manage their way through the salary cap maze and find themselves in compliance, but who would be some free agents that the Steelers could target without breaking the bank?

Here are five underrated free agents that the Pittsburgh Steelers could target this offseason that will not only fill the holes in the roster, but will also help the team get back to the playoffs as they search for their seventh Super Bowl victory.

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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5. RB - Toby Gerhart

Pittsburgh Steelers
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

The former Stanford running back has entered free agency after backing up Adrian Peterson for four years. Gerhart is coming off a pretty dismal 2013 campaign, only rushing for 283 yards with two touchdowns, but that could be just the thing that would bring him down to the Steelers' pay scale. Gerhart would be backing up Le'Veon Bell, but would be an upgrade from Larod Stephens-Howling, Felix Jones and even Isaac Redman, who all saw time in the Steelers' backfield this season. Jonathan Dwyer performed well, but looks as if he will be playing elsewhere next season other than the Steel City.

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4. WR - Jerome Simpson

Pittsburgh Steelers
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

If the Steelers lose Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery to free agency, they will need to find a replacement. One option would be wide receiver Jerome Simpson. His numbers were down this past season, but just as Toby Gerhart's numbers, that doesn't necessarily equate to a lack of talent. Simpson had over 725 yards receiving last season in the Vikings' dismal offensive system. He would not be expected to be a wide receiver that will stretch the field and create issues downfield, but a veteran that can work the slot and the over-the-middle routes that are such a huge part of Todd Haley's offense.

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3. S - Jim Leonhard

Pittsburgh Steelers
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

It looks as if the Steelers are prepared to part ways with longtime safety Ryan Clark. If that does happen, they will have options. They could try to fix the issue in-house with second-year player Shamarko Thomas, or could even try to re-sign Will Allen. Either way, with Clark's departure there could be an opportunity to bring in a veteran safety for a season or two to help fill the gap between players like Thomas becoming full-time starters. Jim Leonhard could be that player. The once Baltimore Ravens safety is all too familiar with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his style would fit well into Pittsburgh's scheme. The Steelers could most likely sign him cheap before his play starts to decline.

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2. CB - Vontae Davis

Pittsburgh Steelers
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers could be cutting Ike Taylor this offseason, and if they cannot negotiate a deal, they might want to look at free agency for a defensive back with experience. Vontae Davis could be the answer for the Steelers. The former first-round pick had 12 pass defenses last season to go along with his 46 tackles and one interception. That certainly falls in line with expectations of a Steelers defensive back, not to mention he is younger and faster than the aging Taylor. The Steelers need to get younger on the defensive side of the ball, and it can't always be through the draft.

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1. DT - Randy Starks

Pittsburgh Steelers
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It looks as if Brett Keisel will not be returning to Pittsburgh for another season, and his colleague along the defensive line, Ziggy Hood, could also be departing via free agency. That leaves a gaping hole along the defensive line that the Steelers would be smart to fill with an experienced veteran. Randy Starks could be just the player that they could sign for a two year deal in hopes of getting him at the right time. He is coming off a season where he not only tallied over 40 tackles, but had four sacks for the Miami Dolphins.