A position-by-position look for the Steelers heading into the off-season; Contract status for every roster player. Plus buzz on Steelers free agents and which areas need to be addressed in the draft.
*Notes: Without a new CBA in place, there can be no free agent signings, trades or offseason workouts.*
The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch under contract. Roethlisberger will be entering next season still in his prime at age 29. The Steelers are set for years with Roethlisberger at the helm.
He is signed through the 2015 season and is due to make $11.6 million next season.
Byron Leftwich is under contract through the 2011 season and the Steelers are very comfortable with him as the team’s No. 2 quarterback. Leftwich is due to make $1.75 million in 2011.
Charlie Batch is also signed through the 2011 season. Batch is due to make $865,000 next season and filled in admirably for Roethlisberger this season but is unlikely to return, unless the Steelers part ways with Dennis Dixon.
Dixon is scheduled for now to be a restricted free agent. However, the free agency status for players is up in the air until a new CBA is in place. Dixon could end up becoming a free agent.
QB Free Agents: Dennis Dixon (RFA tentative)
The Steelers brass believes starter Rashard Mendenhall is on the verge of greatness. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert echoed those same sentiments on various radio apperances this past week.
Mendenhall is coming off his 3rd season and only 2nd full season after missing most of his rookie season due to a shoulder injury.
Just 23 years old, the Steelers are extremely talented and young on offense at crucial positions. Mendenhall is signed through the 2012 season. He is due to make $612,500 next season.
Also under contract for next season is Isaac Redman and rookie Jonathan Dwyer. Redman is signed though the 2011 season and is due to make $405,000 in 2011.
Dwyer ($405,000) is signed through the 2012 season. Dwyer has good potential and Redman continues to develop very well.
It’s a position where the Steelers are young and improving.
Mewelde Moore, 28, who the Steelers really like, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
Despite the emergence of Redman this season, the Steelers are expected to try to bring Moore back.
RB Free Agents: Mewelde Moore (UFA)
Wide Receiver is a position that the Steelers could opt to not address in the upcoming NFL draft. The Steelers have an emerging star in Mike Wallace and rookie playmaker Emmanuel Sanders who should continue to improve as he learns the offense better.
Sanders (signed through 2012) in fact should emerge as the Steelers No. 2 wide receiver next season.
Wallace, 24, will be entering the final of his contract. He will make $480,000 in 2011 and for now is scheduled to become a restricted free agent in 2012. That’s tentative until a new CBA is in place.
Wallace unlike other talented receivers the Steelers have had come through the system, is a good person off the field and not a knuckle head like Santonio Holmes. He’s a strong possibility to get a contract extension.
Hines Ward, 34, who will turn 35 in March, intends to return next season. Ward had a great effort in the Super Bowl but clearly showed signs of slowing down this season. He needs to be open to moving into a No. 3 receiver role.
Ward is signed through the 2013 season. He is due to make $3 million in 2011.
Also under contract for next season is rookie Antonio Brown (signed through 2012), Antwaan Randle El and special teamer Arnaz Battle.
Brown emerged in the passing and should also get better in returning kicks. It will be interesting to see what the Steelers decide to do with Randle El.
Randle El is signed through the 2012 and is due to make $2 million in 2011 and $2.5 million in 2012. He showed in the Super Bowl that he can still contribute, provides good leadership but $2 million is a lot of money for a No. 5 receiver.
Battle, 30, is signed through the 2012 season. He is due to make $1.037 million in 2011.
2nd year pro Limas Sweed, a former second round pick is also under contract for next season. He is signed through the 2011 season and will make $555,000. Sweed has a ton of talent but it remains to be seen if the team even decides to give him serious consideration at finding a spot at a crowded position.
WR Free Agents: None
Heath Miller is locked up long-term, after signing a 6 year – $35 million deal in 2009. Miller is signed through the 2014 season and is due to make $3.4 million in 2011.
David Johnson, 23, is signed through the 2011 season. He will make $480,000. Johnson is a player the Steelers really like in the blocking department.
Matt Spaeth, the Steelers No. 2 tight end is scheduled to become a free agent at seasons end. I would consider looking to upgrade with a better blocking tight end but the Steelers seem to like Spaeth.
Tight End Free Agents: Matt Spaeth
The Steelers have a building block in pro bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and hopefully Max Starks returns to full health at left tackle and the Steelers end up being able to keep Willie Colon. Believe it or not, there are some pieces in place for the Steelers.
Under contract for next season is Max Starks, Flozell Adams, and rookie Chris Scott.
Starks, 29, will be coming off a neck injury but the Steelers expect a full recovery. He is signed through the 2012 season and is due to make $5.14 million in 2011. He will be back as the Steelers starting left tackle.
Flozell Adams, 35, is signed through 2011. He is due to make $5 million in 2011. Despite being a great signing, there’s a chance Adams doesn’t return as he will be 36 in May.
He could retire or if the Steelers get their wish and Willie Colon ends up being a Restricted Free Agent, Colon who is regarded as the Steelers best offensive linemen will regain his starting job at right tackle.
Colon ( 27 yrs old, RFA Tentative), Jonathan Scott (UFA) and Tony Hills (RFA) are scheduled to be free agents.
The Steelers have an interesting scenario ahead of them if a new CBA leads to Colon being an unrestricted free agent.
Jonathan Scott could be back to provide depth at the tackle position. He wasn’t as bad as some thought he would be. It’s unlikely Tony Hills will get tendered.
However, tackle is a position the Steelers could still address early in the draft.
Tackle Free Agents: Willie Colon, Jonathan Scott, Tony Hills
Starters Chris Kemoeatu and Ramon Foster are under contract for next season.
Kemoeatu is signed for three more seasons, under contract through the 2013 season. He is due $2.973 million in 2011.
Foster is signed through 2011. He will make $480,000 next season.
Offensive guard is a key position the Steelers will strongly consider in the first round as there is a need to team a dominant guard next to Maurkice Pouncey.
Trai Essex is scheduled to be a free agent. The Steelers like his versatility but sometimes you need to let people go if you want to get better at that particular position.
Guard Free Agents: Trai Essex
The Steelers are set at the center position for years to come with rookie Maurkice Pouncey.
Pouncey is signed through the 2014 season. He will make $405,000 in 2011.
Doug Legursky is scheduled to be an exclusive rights free agent (at this time).
Center Free Agents: Doug Legursky (exclusive rights free agent)
At the defensive end position, Ziggy Hood, Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith are under contract for next season.
Smith, 34, will be 35 in April and is coming off another big injury. Retirement is said to be a possibility but the sense is that he intends to return.
Smith is signed through the 2011 season and is due to make $4.5 million in 2011.
Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood are both signed through the 2013 season. Keisel is due $3.025 million in 2011.
The emergence of Ziggy Hood gives Pittsburgh the ability to stay away from this position early in the draft. Hood should enter the season as a starter at LDE and the Steelers should use Smith as a situational player due to his inability to stay healthy.
Hood racked up 10 tackles and 3 sacks in the playoffs. Some believe he’s an emerging star.
Veteran Nick Eason is scheduled to be a free agent. He could be back.
At the defensive tackle position, Casey Hampton and Steve McLendon are under contract for next season.
Hampton is signed through the 2012 season and is due to make $3.91 million in 2011. McLendon is signed through 2011.
Veteran Chris Hoke is scheduled to be a free agent.
The defensive tackle position is clearly an area that could and should be addressed early in the draft. Hampton will be 34 at the start of the season and Pittsburgh needs to begin developing a replacement.
DL Free Agents: Chris Hoke, Nick Eason
The strength of the Steelers has one key free agent and an emerging star entering the final year of his contract.
Under contract for next season is James Harrison, James Farrior, Larry Foote, Lawrence Timmons, rookies Jason Worilds, and Stevenson Sylvester.
Harrison, 32, is signed through the 2014 season. He is due to make $3.66 million in 2011. Harrison will turn 33 in May which is somewhat concerning but has yet to show any true signs of slowing down at this point.
Farrior, 36, is signed through the 2012 season and is due $2.85 million in 2011. Farrior had a rebound season but is nearing the end of his career.
Foote, 30, is signed through the 2012 season. He is due to make $2.14 million in 2011.
Worilds who is seen as a project when it comes to his development at outside linebacker, is signed through 2013. Sylvester is under contract through 2012.
Lawrence Timmons, 24, is signed through the 2011 season. He is a priority on the extension front for Pittsburgh, sources say.
The big name who is set to become a free agent is outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, Woodley is scheduled to be a restricted free agent.
However, in-exchange for an 18 game season, it is expected that the players association will receive earlier free agency for players, which could lead to Woodley being an unrestricted free agent.
Woodley, 27, will be the Steelers top priority and he has a strong interest in returning, although he’s not going to get Damarcus Ware money from Pittsburgh.
The Steelers will explore using the franchise tag, barring the new CBA has one.
Timmons and Woodley are represented by super agent Drew Rosenhaus.
Also scheduled for free agency is special teams captain Keyaron Fox. I would look for the Steelers to let him go. He was a disapointment on special teams.
Linebacker Free Agents: LaMarr Woodley (RFA Tentative), Keyaron Fox (UFA)
The key position for the Steelers to address this off-season is at cornerback and they also shouldn’t rule out upgrading at the free safety position.
At the safety position, Troy Polamalu, is signed through the 2011 season, Will Allen through 2012 and Ryan Clark is signed through the 2013 season.
Ryan Mundy is scheduled to be a restricted agent.
Polamalu, 29, will be 30 next season and is entering the final year of his deal. He is due $6.4 million in 2011. Really going to be interesting to see how much longer he decides to play.
Clark, 31, is due $2.5 million in the 2nd year of a horrible 4 year – $17 million deal the Steelers gave Clark last March.
Polamalu continues to show signs of not being able to stay healthy for a full season (2007, 2009, *2010 didn’t finish season healthy*) but the real need is to get a better safety next to Polamalu.
Clark is good against the run but is a major liability against the pass. Team’s spreading the Steelers out is not going to end next season and Clark just can’t get it done against the pass.
Bringing in a safety to develop should be a priority for the Steelers.
The cornerback situation is a mess for Pittsburgh.
Under contract for next season is Bryant McFadden (signed through 2012), rookie Crezdon Butler (signed through 2012), 2nd year pro Keenan Lewis (signed through 2011).
Butler ($405,000) and Lewis ($480,000) are still under their rookie contracts while McFadden is due $2.5 millon in 2011.
Free agents include Ike Taylor (UFA), Anthony Madison (UFA), and William Gay (RFA tentative).
The Steelers are forced to make Ike Taylor a top priority. This group is so thin and with no players in line to take over,Taylor has to be signed.
Taylor, 30, had a strong season going into free agency. His lack of playmaking skills will keep his price down which helps the Steelers cause. Taylor switched agents a few seasons ago from Shaun Smith to high powered agent Joel Segal.
If Gay ends up being a restricted free agent, he will be brough back. The Steelers thought he made nice progress this season.
The wildcard in the group is Crezdon Butler where there’s a lot of intrigue inside the organization. The team is going to be looking for him to step in next season.
Keenan Lewis has been a complete bust thus far and there are a lot of doubts surrounding him.
What the Steelers have to address in bringing in playmakers at the cornerback position.
CB, S Free Agents: Ike Tayor (UFA), Anthony Madison (UFA), William Gay (RFA Tentative), Ryan Mundy
The contracts for kicker Shaun Suisham is up, along with punters Daniel Sepulveda, Jason Kapino’s and longsnapper Greg Warren.
It is expected that Suisham and Sepulveda will be brought back.