Steelers Free Agency Outlook (Defense)
Key Free Agents: CB William Gay, CB Anthony Madison
Area of Needs:Interior linemen, inside linebacker
Buzz: Limited cap space will make it difficult for the Steelers to bring in an impact player at two particular area of needs; Nose tackle and inside linebacker
Defensive Line (5)
NOSE TACKLES (1)
1. Casey Hampton
Exclusive Rights Free Agent: Steve McLendon
Reserve/Futures: Kade Weston
Position Breakdown: The Steelers have a significant long-term need at the nose tackle position but any impact move is not likely until the draft. Despite an $8.056 million cap hit and coming off ACL surgery that could have him on the pup list to start the season, the Steelers will not release Casey Hampton.
Steve McLendon will be back on an exclusive rights tender and is still improving. Ziggy Hood will be an option to play nose tackle in certain sub packages. Overall, there is a strong need for a veteran depth player to be brought in.
FREE AGENCY OUTLOOK
In an ideal situation, the Steelers would have a ton of cap space to dive into the free agent market and not having to bank on the draft for a long-term successor to Casey Hampton. Unfortunately they don’t, which won’t have them in the running for a pro-bowl type player like Miami’s Paul Soliai. The team though will be exploring the market for possible depth and starting options at a bargain price.
One notable run stuffer who would be worth a call is New Orleans defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin, who is coming off a down year and word is Franklin is looking to move back to a 3-4 scheme.
Franklin, 31, was a premier run stopper with the San Francisco 49ers in a 3-4 scheme prior to joining the Saints on a one year, $4 million deal. His value is down and had just 17 tackles last season.
1. Paul Soliai (MIA)
2. Brodrick Bunkley (DEN)
3. Red Bryant (SEA)
4. Jason Jones (TEN)
5. Shaun Rogers (NO)
Other Free Agent Defensive Tackles: Antonio Garay (SD), Brandon McKinney (BAL), Ronald Fields (CAR), Anthony Adams (CHI), Amobi Okoye (CHI), Jonathan Fanene (CIN), Pat Sims (CIN), Marcus Thomas (DEN), Andre Fluellen (DET), Howard Green (GB), Eric Foster (IND), Tommie Harris (IND), Daniel Muir (IND), C.J. Mosley (JAC), Amon Gordon (KC), Kelly Gregg (KC), Fred Evans (MIN), Letroy Guion (MIN), Gerard Warren (NE), Mike Wright (NE), Aubrayo Franklin (NO), Rocky Bernard (NYG), Jimmy Kennedy (NYG), Derek Landri (PHI),
Trevor Laws (PHI), Colin Cole (SEA), Gary Gibson (STL), Albert Haynesworth (TB), Tony Brown (TEN)
Underrated Free Agent to Watch: Antonio Garay (SD) – At age 32 with injury concerns, Garay could be a potential bargain on the free agent market. He made just $640,000 last season and is a player who can clog the middle and would be a great short-term option at the nose tackle position. Garay though had 57 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season and should draw enough interest where he will likely be out of the Steelers price range.
DEFENSIVE ENDS (4)
1. Ziggy Hood (LDE)
2. Brett Keisel (RDE)
3. Cam Heyward
4. Al Woods
Reserve/Futures: Corbin Bryant, Mike Blanc
Released: Aaron Smith
Position Breakdown: Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel enter the off-season entrenched as the starting left and right defensive ends, respectively. However, 2011 first round pick Cameron Heyward figures to make a strong push for more playing time in year two. Steve McLendon also has the ability to play end giving the Steelers a strong nucleus going into the off-season. The team is also intrigued about Corbin Bryant
FREE AGENCY OUTLOOK
Adding a defensive end will not be a top priority for the Steelers in free agency or in the draft.
The Steelers though could add another veteran depth option going into camp for a possible No. 4 defensive end spot on the depth chart.
1. Mario Williams (HOU)
2. John Abraham (ATL)
3. Andre Carter (NE)
4. Kendall Langford (MIA)
5. Jeremy Mincey (JAC)
Other Defensive End Free Agents: Aaron Smith, Vonnie Holliday (ARZ), Kroy Biermann (ATL), Cory Redding (BAL), Israel Idonije (CHI), Victor Adeyanju (CIN), Frostee Rucker (CIN), Derrick Harvey (DEN), Jason Hunter (DEN), Tim Bulman (HOU), Jamaal Anderson (IND), Tyler Brayton (IND), Jeremy Mincey (JAC), Matt Roth (JAC), Wallace Gilberry (KC), Phillip Merling (MIA), Igor Olshansky (MIA), Mark Anderson (NE), Andre Carter (NE), Shaun Ellis (NE), Eric Moore (NE), Jeff Charleston (NO), Turk McBride (NO), Dave Tollefson (NYG), Jarvis Moss (OAK), Trevor Scott (OAK), Victor Abiamiri (PHI), Juqua Parker (PHI), Luis Castillo (SD), Raheem Brock (SEA), Anthony Hargrove (SEA), Jovan Haye (TB), Dave Ball (TEN), William Hayes (TEN), Adam Carriker (WAS), Kedric Golston (WAS)
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
1. LaMarr Woodley (LOLB)
2. James Harrison (ROLB)
3. Jason Worilds (LOLB/ROLB)
4. Chris Carter (LOLB/ROLB)
Reserve/Futures: Marshall McFadden
Position Breakdown: The outside linebacker position won’t be addressed in free agency with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley as starters and young depth options in Jason Worilds, Chris Carter. The draft though will be a different story as the Steelers will surely be open to adding a young pass rusher early in the draft due to James Harrison’s age and questions about Jason Worilds being an impact player.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
1. Lawrence Timmons
2. Larry Foote
3. Stevenson Sylvester
4. Mortty Ivy
Reserve/Futures: Brandon Hicks
Released: James Farrior
Position Breakdown: The inside linebacker position next to Lawerence Timmons is considered by many as one of the Steelers biggest needs in the off-season. Right now Larry Foote is the starter next to Timmons but might only be a two-down player at this stage of his career. The Steelers are high on Stevenson Sylvester who will be entering his third year and Sylvester will be given an opportunity to win a role in the defense.
FREE AGENCY OUTLOOK
Finding a James Farrior in free agency like the Steelers did in 2002 when they lost Earl Holmes doesn’t seem likely.
1. Stephen Tulloch (DET)
2. Curtis Lofton (ATL)
3. David Hawthorne (SEA)
4. Erin Henderson (MIN)
5. London Fletcher (WAS)
Other Free Agent Linebackers: Jameel McClain (BAL), Jarret Johnson (BAL), James Farrior (PIT), Dan Connor (CAR), Clark Haggans (ARZ), Mike Peterson (ATL), Brendon Ayanbadejo (BAL), Andra Davis (BUF), Kirk Morrison (BUF), Reggie Torbor (BUF), Antwan Applewhite (CAR), Omar Gaither (CAR), Jordan Senn (CAR), Brandon Johnson (CIN), Manny Lawson (CIN), Keith Brooking (DAL), Bradie James (DAL), Mario Haggan (DEN), Joe Mays (DEN), Wesley Woodyard (DEN), Bobby Carpenter (DET), Isaiah Ekejiuba (DET), Erik Walden (GB), Tim Dobbins (HOU), Gary Brackett (IND), Kevin Bentley (IND), Ernie Sims (IND), Philip Wheeler (IND), Demorrio Williams (KC), Ikaika Alama-Francis (MIA), Marvin Mitchell (MIA), Xavier Adibi (MIN), E.J. Henderson (MIN), Erin Henderson (MIN), Gary Guyton (NE), Tracy White (NE), Jo-Lonn Dunbar (NO), Chase Blackburn (NYG), Jonathan Goff (NYG), Bryan Thomas (NYJ), Darryl Blackstock (OAK), Ricky Brown (OAK), Quentin Groves (OAK), Stephen Cooper (SD), Na’il Diggs (SD), Heath Farwell (SEA), Leroy Hill (SEA), Matt McCoy (SEA), David Vobora (SEA), Blake Costanzo (SF),Tavares Gooden (SF), Larry Grant (SF), Chris Chamberlain (STL), Bryan Kehl (STL), Ben Leber (STL),Brady Poppinga (STL), Geno Hayes (TB), Patrick Bailey (TEN), Barrett Ruud (TEN), Tim Shaw (TEN), Keyaron Fox (WAS)
Underrated Free Agent to Watch: Jameel McClain (BAL) – There is little buzz surrounding Ravens inside linebacker Jameel McClain but he’s only 26 years old and improving. For the Steelers, if the money was there, he would fit into their needed youth movement on the defensive side of the ball.
1. Ike Taylor
2. Cortez Allen
3. Curtis Brown
Reserve/Futures: Walter McFadden, Antonio Smith
UFA’s: William Gay, Anthony Madison
RFA’s: Keenan Lewis
Released: Bryant McFadden
Position Breakdown: The Pittsburgh Steelers have a young evolving secondary with Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown and Keenan Lewis likely back on his RFA tender.
There is a ton of intrigue surrounding Allen who the Steelers feel could go into the 2012 season as their starting cornerback opposite Ike Taylor. The upside is there for Allen to make it happen and if William Gay is not resigned, Lewis and Allen figure to battle for the starting spot, while Brown is viewed more as a nickle back by Steelers coaches.
FREE AGENCY OUTLOOK
The cornerback market is extremely deep, highlighted by Brandon Carr, Kansas City, Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee, and Carlos Rogers of the San Francisco 49ers. The group is regarded as 10-12 deep when it comes to potential starting corners. Following the top-3 includes, Tracy Porter (NO), Terrell Thomas (NYG), Richard Marshall (ARZ), Rashean Mathis (JAC) Aaron Ross (NYG), Eric Wright (DET), Ronde Barber (TB) and Pittsburgh’s William Gay.
Gay, the Steelers starting right cornerback last season, enters free agency coming off his best NFL season. He played on a one year, $735,000 deal last season and is seeking a multi-year deal, an NFL source says.
The Steelers are interested in bringing Gay back but are not willing to spend a lot of money to keep him. Both sides intend to explore their options.
1. Brandon Carr (KC)
2. Cortland Finnegan (TEN)
3. Carlos Rogers (SF)
4. Tracy Porter (NO)
5. Terrell Thomas (NYG)
Other Free Agent Corners: Aaron Ross (NYG), Richard Marshall (ARZ), Rashean Mathis (JAC), Eric Wright (DET), William Gay (PIT), Ronde Barber (TB) Cedric Griffin, Kelvin Hayden (ATL), Chris Carr (BAL) Dominique Foxworth (BAL) Reggie Corner (BUF), Cletis Gordon (CAR), Zackary Bowman (CHI), Corey Graham (CHI), Tim Jennings (CHI), Kelly Jennings (CIN), Adam Jones (CIN), Dmitri Patterson (CLE), Alan Ball (DAL), Frank Walker (DAL), Brandon McDonald (DET), Jonathan Wilhite (DEN), Jarrett Bush (GB), Pat Lee (GB), Jason Allen (HOU), David Jones (JAC), Dwight Lowery (JAC), Travis Daniels (KC), Will Allen (MIA), Benny Sapp (MIN), Antwaun Molden (NE), Leigh Torrence (NO), Will Blackmon (NYG), Michael Coe (NYG), ,Justin Tryon (NYG), Donald Strickland (NYJ), Lito Sheppard (OAK), Anthony Madison (PIT), Bryant McFadden, Marcus Trufant (SEA), Roderick Hood (STL), Justin King (STL), Ronde Barber (TB), Elbert Mack (TB)Philip Buchanon (WAS)
1. Troy Polamalu
2. Ryan Clark
3. Will Allen
4. Da’Mon Cromartie Smith
RFA’s: Ryan Mundy
Reserve/Futures: Myron Rolle
Position Breakdown: Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark are entrenched as starters and Ryan Mundy showed enough promise last season where the Steelers don’t need to make safety depth a priority like they did two years ago with the signing of Will Allen
FREE AGENCY OUTLOOK
If the Steelers were to release Will Allen who carries a $1.605 million cap hit, the Steelers could be in the market for a depth safety at the veteran minimum. Highly unlikely though.
1. LaRon Landry (WAS)
2. Reggie Nelson (CIN)
3. Reggie Smith (SF)
4. O.J. Atogwe
5. Brandon Meriweather
Other Free Agent Safeties: Jim Leonhard (NYJ), Chris Hope (TEN), Tom Zbikowski (BAL), Hamza Abdullah (ARZ), Sean Considine (ARZ), James Sanders (ATL), Haruki Nakumura (BAL), Bryan Scott (BUF), Craig Steltz (CHI),, Gibril Wilson (CIN), Mike Adams (CLE), Abram Elam (DAL), Erik Coleman (DET), Chris Harris (DET), Dominique Barber (HOU), CC Brown (JAC), Courtney Greene (JAC), Jon McGraw (KC), Sabby Piscitelli (KC), Husain Abdullah (MIN), Tyrell Johnson (MIN), Jarrad Page (MIN), James Ihedigbo (NE), Nathan Jones (NE), Deon Grant (NYG), Derrick Martin (NYG), Brodney Pool (NYJ), Matt Giordano (OAK), Steve Gregory (SD), Paul Oliver (SD), Bob Sanders (SD), Atari Bigby (SEA), , Madieu Williams (SF), Craig Dahl (STL), Sean Jones (TB), Corey Lynch (TB),, Jordan Babineaux (TEN), Anthony Smith (TEN)