Steelers Free Agents: Who Stays and Who Goes?

WorildsWith the Steelers’ 2013 season now history, the work towards a brighter future begins.

The first thing that Mike Tomlin will do is assess his coaching staff.¬†Coach Lebeau has already said publicly he wants to be back, and the only way I see Coach Haley leaving is if he’s offered a head coaching position (which is unlikely).

Typically there’s a small amount of turnover on the staff, but I couldn’t name anyone off the top of my head that I feel deserves to be fired.


There is a chance that Keith Butler gets tired of waiting and takes a defensive coordinator position somewhere.

That’s (most likely) the extent of the excitement on that front. The next important step will be figuring out which Steelers free agents they will keep, and which ones they will let walk (or test the market).

I’m taking a look at some of more important free agents they have, and offer my predictions…


Jason Worilds: Stays

This guy should be priority number one. Signing Worilds would allow the Steelers to cut the unproductive and oft-injured Lamarr Woodley. Worilds has looked as good as Woodley did at his peak, and would be a cheaper and younger option.

I think Worilds stays because I think that if they were able to do it over again, the Steelers would find a way to retain Keenan Lewis, even if it meant releasing Ike Taylor to do so.

There’s been some concern voiced that Worilds only showed up in a contract season, and will be content once he gets paid. There’s always that possibility but I believe Worilds’ late blooming is probably attributed more to learning the position, not being able to stay healthy, and not playing on his stronger side earlier in his career. I trust the Steelers’ front office on that front.


Brett Kiesel: Goes

I think that the beard goes the way of Hines Ward and James Farrior before him. It’s always sad to see a long time great go (especially one that worked his way up from being a 7th round pick), but it’s time.

If Ziggy Hood was to leave in free agency, I think it would be a great move to sign Kiesel for 1 or 2 years at the vet minimum, but history shows that’s not really the Steelers’ style.


Ziggy Hood: Stays

This one really depends on what Ziggy wants to do. While he gets a bad rap from a lot of Steelers fans for not living up to his first round status, he’s not a bad player. Hood is a solid veteran that knows the scheme, and is still only 26 years old. If he’s willing to take a modest contract, the Steelers will keep him around.


Ryan Clark: Goes

This is the prediction in this thread I feel most confident about. Ryan Clark spent much of last off-season on an ESPN set. I’m not going to blame the guy for getting ready for his second career, but it’s obvious that he has the end in mind.

Even if Clark had a decent season, I’m not sure you’d see him return, but Clark’s skills seemed to fall off a cliff this season.


Emmanuel Sanders: Goes

I’m wrong a lot… but I was really upset the Steelers didn’t take the 3rd round pick from the Patriots for Sanders. I think if they had, they could’ve signed a guy like Steve Breaston for the vet minimum and seen the same kind of production they got out of Sanders this season.

I think Emmanuel Sanders wants to get paid, and it’s not going to be in Pittsburgh.


Jerricho Cotchery: Stays

I expect the Steelers to find another receiver relatively early in the draft or free agency. However, the #2 WR spot is wide open. I still think that Markus Wheaton could break out next season despite limited work this season, but you have to have other plans in place.

Cotchery filled the role that Hines Ward did during the last few years of his career. Serving as a mentor to the young receivers, as well as a very dependable target especially on 3rd downs and in the red zone. He’s also already stated that at this point he just wants a ring and thinks he can win one in Pittsburgh.


Jonathan Dwyer: Goes

This one is hard for me to predict. The Steelers felt they didn’t need Dwyer when he was released last off-season. They also continued the give Felix Jones most of the snaps that didn’t go to Le’Veon Bell late in the season. I personally would take Dwyer over Jones in a heartbeat but it seems that Todd Haley prefers the shiftier back.

I think that Dwyer likes Pittsburgh, and would like to stay, but I don’t think that the Steelers bring him back. I hope I’m wrong on this one.


Al Woods: Stays

Al Woods might be one of the best backups on the team. I don’t think there’s really a big drop off at all from McLendon to Woods. While it would leave the Steelers very thin depth-wise, I wouldn’t mind seeing Woods start and McLendon next to him at DE if they were to lose Ziggy and Kiesel. If the money is right this one is a no brainer.


Fernando Velasco: Stays

If Velasco had stayed healthy the entire year I think he’d be gone for sure. He played well enough to get a solid contract offer from a team seeking a starting center. Ramon Foster played well enough this year to stop any talk of Pouncey moving over (in my opinion).

Velasco’s injury changes things though. I think he likely comes back on a 1 year deal to see if he can recover fully.


Cody Wallace: Stays

This one seems like another no brainer. Wallace had his struggles but definitely answered the bell for the Steelers. With Kelvin Beachum likely finding a home at Left Tackle, the Steelers really need to bolster their depth on the interior of the line. Having a guy that’s started is great.


Now I realize that I have more “stays” than “goes.” I realize that we can’t keep everyone. I think that some tough decisions are going to be made this off-season. I’m predicting that Ike Taylor and Lamarr Woodley do not return, and Troy Polamalu takes a pay cut. I also think that Big Ben gets a new contract that provides some cap relief in 2014.

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15 comments on “Steelers Free Agents: Who Stays and Who Goes?

  1. Your missing two people that should go…. Tomlin and the GM…… many more bad drafts do we need to see???? How many more sidline incidents do we need to see……Tomlin lived off the prior team and the last two years have shown it…….this is now “his” team and all we get is 8-8…not good

    • Tony, not really a write up about Tomlin, but since you mentioned it…

      You talk about bad drafts, but I have high hopes for this class, and some previous ones really broke out this season… Jarvis Jones didn’t look completely and utterly lost out there which is impressive on it’s own. Le’veon Bell broke a record held by Franco Harris. Many said Markus Wheaton was a 2nd round talent, and I believe will show more next season. Vince Williams came in as a 6th rounder and played almost the entire year in the middle, called the plays, and played well.

      David DeCastro solidified the RG spot, and had a very good season. It’s too early to give up on Mike Adams, and Kelvin Beachum is one of the most valuable players on the entire roster despite being a 7th round pick.

      Cameron Heyward and Jason Worilds were the two best players on the defense this year.

      People like to rag on the drafts, but I personalyl don’t think they’ve been that bad since 2010.

  2. I can’t stand that crap, Tomlin is such a bad coach. Cowher was so great!!! And Cowher never did bad. How long under Cowher did it take to get his first Super Bowl, or draft a long time QB, how. Many seasons did he have below 8-8 during his time, I believe I saw some 6-10 in there. Coaches have ups and downs, Tomlin and Cowher are tied right now for superbowl wins and losses and are both great coaches. Get off it people!!!!

  3. Tomlin is NOT a good coach, and basically relies on his coordinators to do the work for him. He is not a leader, as a Belicheck or Harbaugh, and still to this day does not manage the clock correctly—and he has been coaching for something like 7-8 years. Is there any excuse for this team to have gone 0-4 in the first games, and lose to the lower-end teams? Since when is 2 back-to-back seasons on 8-8 a ringing endorsement for a coach? And the last playoff game was a quick 1-and-done exit by a QB that is not even in the league anymore.

    And don’t start about ‘how long Cowher had before he won a Super Bowl’—-he had to BUILD his team from the ground-up, as he took over a very mediocre team from Noll. Tomlin got a Super Bowl ready team from Cowher–and he has been living off it ever since. Now that you are seeing those players leave and/or retire, we will get see what he can do with his own guys. I think 2 seasons of 8-8 kinda show you what he has done. Mediocre football. Yeah, he’s great, lol.

    • It’s funny you mention Cowher took over a medicore team. Cowher took over a 7-9 team, and Tomlin took over an 8-8 team… Not that big of a difference.

      Cowher went 7-9, and then 6-10 in consecutive season, but wasn’t fire… and was able to turn things around.

      Tomlin’s not perfect by any means, but he’s not a bad coach. Many fans would trade coaches in a heartbeat. I’m not ready to see him go just yet.

    • Harbaugh ? which one…Ive read more than one article indicating in BAL Harbaugh relies heavily on his coordinators. Belichek last time I checked had lost 5 of his last 8 playoff games, almost all of them as favorites, blowing two SBs even. That’s a great resume, wonder how they feel in Boston with a coach who has maybe the game’s best ever QB who wins zero playoff games in 2008, 2009, & 2010, then cant even beat one team with a winning record all season in 2011. isn’t Belichek the same guy who went for it and 4th down in his own territory and failed to convert leading to winning TD by IND a few years ago ? He’s the same guy who lost to Kevin Kolb and the 5 win ARI last year right ? Yeah, that guy’s a genius !!

    • Also, the only reason Cowher had to build his SB winning team from the ground up was because he failed to win one with the very good team he inherited. Cowher comes in 1992 and is handed a 5 time Pro Bowl ROLB, two HOF’ers at Center & CB, an NFL All Decade Safety, a muti time Pro Bowler at Guard, a record setting RB, a Pro Bowl QB, maybe the best PK in team history, then immediately adds the best ILB since Lambert and one of the best pass rushing OLBs in NFL History. He had a lot of early success with an NFL record tying 6 straight post season appearances to start his career and advanced to 3 AFC Title Games (winning one) but he couldn’t get a ring. That team got old and declined and he had to rebuild, eventually mimicking that success with a 2001-05 run that included 4 playoff appearances/10 plus win seasons in 5 years, three AFC Title Game Appearances and finally a SB win. If Cowher could have grabbed a ring with the in many superior teams he had earlier in his career he might be headed for the HOF.

    • Thanks for the response Robert. Dwyer is one I have a hard time putting my finger on, but I get the feeling that Haley just doesn’t value a RB like Dwyer much in our scheme.

      Dwyer was let go for Redman, which I felt was a big mistake. Dwyer gives you the same power Redman does, but he actually has some vision and ability to make guys miss. Dwyer was brought back when he had to be, and played decent (well enough to be our #2 anyway), but down the stretch Felix Jones was the 2nd man into the game when Bell would sit… That tells me they just don’t value Dwyer as much as we do.

    • Promoting Keith Butler MAKES ZERO SENSE if you think we need to change Defensively. Butler’s entire career has been as a Dick LeBeau disciple, and he has given every indication he will do things schematically pretty much the same as LeBeau. If DL is the problem, why on earth would you hand his job to a guy who has never been a Def Coordinator who’s entire coaching career has been learning from and mimicking the guy you are getting rid of ??

      • You’re making a lot of assumptions here James.

        I think that Leabeau’s scheme struggles against the dink and dunk offenses… But there’s plenty of effective 3-4 teams out there. Just because Butler has coached under DL doesn’t mean he thinks things should be done exactly the same way.

        I wouldn’t want a complete overhaul but some tweaks would be nice (like maybe some more bump and run coverage for example). “he has given every indication he will do things schematically pretty much the same as LeBeau,” I think you’re just assuming here… I haven’t seen any indication of anything really.

  4. You Tomlin haters are funny, all you guys want is to turn our team into the browns right, first sign of trouble fire the head coach.. Nothing you guys say about him changes the fact that 8-8 is no where near as bad as this season could have been, doesn’t change the facts that Cowher and Tomlin are both good coaches and are tied in the Super Bowl column. Once again talk all the crap you want the franchise is smarter than all of you couch coaches and won’t run this team like the browns cause you made about a couple of down seasons out of an outstanding decade.

  5. I love people who say that either Cowher or Tomlin took over mediocre teams. Your record isn’t what makes you good , bad, or average, it’s your talent. Coaching takes it to the next level (up or down). All Cowher did was take over a team with a 5 time Pro Bowl ROLB, HOF’ers at CB & Center, an NFL All Decade Team’er at Safety, the No. 2 rusher in the NFL, a Pro Bowl QB, the best PK in team history, and a perennial Pro Bowler at Tackle. That team had underachieved badly it’s previous two seasons with a 16-16 record. Likewise, Tomlin comes in and inherits a team one year removed from a Super Bowl win with a Franchise QB, one of the best RB’s in team history, a consistent Pro Bowl/All Pro WR who is probably among the two best in team history, an Pro Bowl DE considered by those in Pgh among the very best in the team’s history at least since their 70s heyday, a 5 time Pro Bowl NT, a two time Team MVP and NFL Def Player Of Year at ROLB and future HOF’er at Safety, plus two Pro Bowlers on his O-Line at Center and Guard. Yeah, that team sucked.

    Cowher was a good coach, his teams were prepared, they typically played hard, very few blow out losses in his long tenure, he was rarely upset by inferior teams (the 1994 AFC Title Game the one aberration), and he kept them in playoff contention nearly all of his 15 years despite Free Agency and the lack of a stud QB. Tomlin has gotten this team to three 12 win seasons, two AFC Titles and one SB Win despite some serious injury issues and Ben’s suspension. His 2008 team overcame Ben’s shoulder injury, Willie Parker ‘s knee and shoulder injuries, S. Holmes drug arrest, season ending injuries to their two best O-Lineman, and somehow won 12 games against the league’s hardest schedule and won the SB. in 2010 they overcame Ben’s suspension, the season ending losses of A. Smith, and Max Starcks and still won 12 games and nearly won the SB.

    No doubt Tomlin has his work cut out for him now that many of the players he inherited from Cowher are gone, just like Cowher did in 1998-2000, a stretch of three straight non playoff seasons that included a horrid 24 game run with just 6 wins between the end of 98 season to the start of 2000. Cowher perservered and was successful. Tomlin, who kept this team together and focused through the 0-4 start and even after heartbreaking losses later vs Bal & MIa to win 8 of their final 12 games now can show he has the same mettle Cowher had

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