The 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers have not even played their final game yet and already the discussions in the media and in the blogosphere have begun on the speculation about 2013. Who takes a pay cut? Who gets cut? Who is re-signed? Who are they targeting in the draft? I can’t recall the last time we discussed such things in December that’s for sure.
I’m going to take a look at both sides of the ball and please remember this is a very preliminary group of thoughts or a ‘rough draft’ if you will. I’ll get more in depth as the spring unfolds in what is now a year-round NFL season.
On defense… The biggest issue I see right now is whether or not the Steelers will or will be able to bring back Keenan Lewis. The young cornerback finally got his chance and came through with flying colors for the most part this season. The problem is what will his salary demands be? Throw in the fact that Cortez Allen played extremely well too and I can see a situation where Lewis walks for more money.
Casey Hampton will be back only if he signs at a veteran minimum. He played far better than anyone thought he would coming off knee surgery, but at his age what more can he give? I have to believe James Harrison will be playing his final game in the black ‘n gold as well. His current salary prices the Steelers out and the team must get younger at OLB despite Harrison playing pretty well for the most part. His pass rushing diminished greatly though and that cannot happen from that position on the D.
The one area I’m really intrigued by is opposite Harrison. LaMarr Woodley has been hurt and totally underwhelming since signing a new contract a couple years ago. 2012 was easily his poorest season for the Steelers and the game against Cincinnati was a microcosm of that as he never got within the same zip code of Andy Dalton. Whether he needs to lose weight or move back to his college position at defenseive end is unclear but a contract re-structure is possible.
Offensively, I think there has to be one clear move that appears to be a no-brainer and that is Rashard Mendenhall. I cannot see any way the Steelers would bring him back and I can’t see a reason why the would want to bring him back. I’ve been wrong before, but I think the organization is ready to part ways and most of the fan base is as well.
I do believe you’ll see Jonathan Dwyer back in the Steel City and whether or not he’s the man in the Steelers’ backfield will remain to be seen but I think of him, Isaac Redman and Mendy, he’s the only one left standing.
Amazingly, there is one way I can see Mike Wallace coming back and that’s if he puts himself out on the market and finds there aren’t any takers for the kind of money he allegedly wants. I’ve found him to be a head case this season whose attitude as affected other receivers like Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders negatively. While it’s a stretch to see him back, I think he goes for locker room reasons just as much as financial ones.
I also think you’ll see Max Starks back. Starks actually had a pretty good season with all the attention focused on the other side of the line. Ramon Foster is a guy I think comes back due to his ability to play multiple positions and his ironman mentality.
As far as the QB situation goes, the Steelers have to get younger and this is a good time to do it. Both Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch are free agents and while they are good, veteran guys, they have health issues and age issues. I don’t see either coming back.
As I said, I’ll take a more in-depth look at the situation as the off-season unfolds and that will include some reserves and special teams’ gys as well.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.