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Insider Only Offense: Inside look at the Steelers top candidates to be released or have their deals restructured for cap reasons

Offensive Breakdown

The Steelers will come out of the lockout, almost $11 million over the salary cap and will have to say goodbye to some key contributors from last season.
While on the defensive side of the ball, extending Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons are top priorities, we take a look on the offensive side of the ball today with top candidates to be released or have their deals restructured.
Antwaan Randle El, Flozell Adams and Arnaz Battle are among the top candidates to be released, while Max Starks who carries a $7.9 million cap hit, is a top candidate to have his deal restructured.
Here is a look at the Steelers depth chart, salaries, buzz on each position and top candidates to be restructured or released due to cap reasons:

Quarterbacks

1. Ben Roethlisberger (29) – Signed through 2015 | $11.4 million salary in 2011 |
2. Byron Leftwich (31) – Signed through 2011 | $1.75 million salary in 2011
3. Dennis Dixon (26) – Restricted Free Agent | Received Existing round tender |
4. Charlie Batch (36) – Signed through 2011 | $865,000 salary in 2011
Latest Buzz: Some in the local media have floated Bryon Leftwich’s name as a top candidate to be a salary cap casualty, however, multiple sources indicate the Steelers are fully committed to Leftwich as the Steelers No. 2 quarterback.
Leftwich, 31, is due $1.75 million in 2011. With Leftwich earning close to $2 million, they could look to restructure but don’t look for Leftwich to be released.
One of Dennis Dixon or Charlie Batch will be gone. Dixon would like to seek other opportunities but unless a trade were to open up, Batch will be gone.
Top candidate to be released: Charlie Batch
Restructure Candidates: Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich

Running Backs

1. Rashard Mendenhall (24) – Signed through 2012 | $612,500 salary in 2011, $2.7MM in escalators
2. Ike Redman (26) – Signed through 2011 | $405,000 salary in 2011
3. Jonathan Dwyer (21) – Signed through 2012 | $405,000 salary in 2011 |
Incoming Rookies: 7th round pick Baron Batch
Key Free Agents: Mewelde Moore
Latest Buzz: The Steelers have no salary cap candidates out of this group. The Steelers are interested in adding a veteran running back and still have some interest in resigning Mewelde Moore.
Free agent Running back Jason Snelling is viewed as an excellent fit.
Meanwhile, the coaching staff believes Baron Batch could battle for a 3rd down back role but he will be hard pressed to earn a roster spot due to no OTA’s this summer or even seeing a playbook. If he takes a while to catch on in camp, Batch would be a prime candidate to develop on the practice squad for a season.
With the Steelers high on Baron Batch’s abilities on special teams and in the passing department, and not to mention the likelyhood of signing a veteran back, Jonathan Dwyer has to come into camp and have an impact to keep his spot on the roster.
Top candidate to be released:Jonathan Dwyer (but not due to cap reasons)
Restructure candidate: None

Wide Receivers

1. Mike Wallace (24) – Signed through 2011 | $480,000 salary in 2011 |
2. Hines Ward (35) – Signed through 2013 | $3 million salary in 2011 |
3. Emmanuel Sanders (24) – Signed through 2012 | $405,000 salary in 2011
4. Antonio Brown (23) – Signed through 2012 | $405,000 salary in 2011 |
5. Antwaan Randle El (31) – Signed through 2012 | $2 million salary in 2011
6. Arnaz Battle (31) – Signed through 2012 | $1.38 million salary in 2011 |
7. Limes Sweed (26) – Signed through 2011 | $550,000 salary in 2011
Latest Buzz:Antwaan Randle El is the top candidate to be released on the offensive side of the ball. Randle El turns 32 in August and carries a cap hit of $2.3 million this season.
The Steelers would like to keep him in an ideal situation but it’s hard seeing him being able to stay due to the depth chart and cap situation.
Meanwhile, can the Steelers afford to carry around a cap hit of $1.7 million for special teams cover ace Arnaz Battle? They felt he was instrumental on their success as a cover unit last season but something has to give.
Emmanuel Sanders foot injury will be something to watch as camp opens. Sanders just started working out near full strength.
A lot of eyes in camp will be on Limas Sweed who gets his last shot at making an impact. Things though are very crowded for him.
Top candidates to be released:Antwaan Randle El, Arnaz Battle.
Restructure Candidates: No players standout. Hines Ward could be a possibility if things are that dire but he’s only carrying a cap hit just over $3 million.
Extension Candidates: Mike Wallace – entering final year of deal

Tight Ends

1. Heath Miller (29) – Signed through 2014 | $3.386 million salary in 2011 |
2. David Johnson (23) – Signed through 2011 | $480,000 salary in 2011 |
Key Free Agents: Matt Spaeth
Latest Buzz:No players in danger of being released for cap reasons. The Steelers are expected to look to resign Matt Spaeth who the team likes a lot.

Tackles

1. Max Starks (29) – Signed through 2012 | $5.4 million salary in 2012 |
2. Flozell Adams (36) – Signed through 2011 | $5 million salary in 2011 |
3. Chris Scott (23) – Signed through 2011 | $405,000 salary in 2011 |
4. Tony Hills (26) – RFA
Incoming Rookies: Marcus Gilbert 2nd round pick
Key Free Agents: Jonathan Scott, Willie Colon
Latest Buzz: Max Starks coming off neck surgery, carries a $7.9 million cap hit this season. Flozell Adams carries a $5 million cap hit. Something has to give here…
Both are prime candidates to get their deals restructured, while Adams is a candidate to be released if (1) Steelers resign Willie Colon or (2) Adams doesn’t agree to restructure his deal to a more feasible cap hit.
An ideal situation for the Steelers would be to resign Colon and release Adams who is 36.
If the Steelers resign Colon, Adams is expected to seek a release anyway, sources say.
The Steelers would like to retain Jonathan Scott for depth reasons and the coaching staff is very high on OT Chris Scott, a 5th round pick last season. Scott though hasn’t been able to show the Steelers much due to injuries and the lockout.
2011 2nd round pick Marcus Gilbert doesn’t figure to be in the mix for a starting tackle job this season but could emerge as a candidate at the guard position.
Top candidates to be released:Flozell Adams
Top restructure candidates: Max Starks

Guards

1. Chris Kemoeatu (28) – Signed through 2013 | $2.973 million salary in 2011 |
2. Ramon Foster (25) – Signed through 2011 | $480,000 salary in 2011
Incoming Rookies: Keith Williams 6th round pick
Key Free Agents: Trai Essex
Latest Buzz: No players in danger of being released for salary cap reasons. Chris Kemoeatu is a year away from being a possible salary cap casualty. Look for Ramon Foster to open season as the Steelers starting right guard, where he was to end last season.
Doug Legursky and rookie Marcus Gilbert will be given opportunities to battle Foster for the starting right guard job but look for Foster to retain his spot.
Trai Essex is a free agent and the Steelers like the depth he provides but there might not be a spot for him.
Rookie Keith Williams plays a nasty type of game the Steelers covet in guards.

Centers

1. Maurkice Pouncey – Signed through 2014 | $405,000 salary in 2011; Due $5 million bonus at start of new league year |
2. Doug Legursky – Exclusive Rights Free Agent
Latest Buzz: Excellent stability at the center position for years to come with a pro bowl caliber center in Maurkice Pouncey for years to come. Doug Legursky provides good depth and center is a much stronger position for him than guard.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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