Pittsburgh could potentially be looking at wide receiver, defensive end, cornerback, or safety for starters. They’ll also look for depth on both lines and linebacker.
Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has said a few times this off-season he expects to find a starter in free agency to help take some of the pressure off of draft picks to produce early.
I already know what all of the comments on this article are going to say. The Steelers never sign big name free agents.
Trust me, I know, and I’m not saying that’s what they’re going to do. They’re going to wait a couple of weeks into the free agency period, and look at guys that will come cheap, that have potential to fit into their scheme.
It’s worked in the past with guys like James Farrior, Ryan Clark, and Jeff Hartings.
One thing that those types of guys the Steelers signed, is they were all still fairly young when the Steelers signed them. Clark was 26, Farrior was 27, and Hartings was 28.
They tried it last off-season with guys like Matt Spaeth and Larod Stephens-Howling, who would’ve played large roles but both suffered serious injuries.
So with all that being said, here are some guys that I think fit the bill of what the Steelers typically look for in their free agent signings. I’m not saying the Steelers will or could look at all of these guys, but any of them seem like a possibility to me…
Toby Gerhart, RB, Minnesota
Knowshon Moreno, Ben Tate, Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, Donald Brown, and LaGarette Blount are the big names on the market. Couple that with the fact that the running back position is being de-valued, and someone like Gerhart could slip through the cracks.
If the Steelers bring back Dwyer and/or Jones then RB won’t be as big a need, but right now they need to find someone that can keep Bell from wearing down. Gerhart is only 26 and has only averaged 4.5 carries per game in his career, so he should have plenty of tread left on the tires.
Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Kansas City
This one I’m not extremely confident about, but I think if he hits the open market Todd Haley will definitely want to at least bring him in to talk. Haley has always had some shifty, scat-backs on his rosters in the NFL. Haley drafted McCluster in the 2nd round when he was the head coach of the Chiefs, so we know he’s a fan.
McCluster could fill multiple roles for the Steelers as a return man, a back receiver, and a 3rd down running back to give Bell a breather here or there. I realize McCluster just made the pro bowl as a return man, but with new kick return rules, these guys are being de-valued.
Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee
I think that Britt could be one of the guys that could benefit from a change of scenery. He’s shown in his career he’s capable of being dominant and using his size to out-muscle defensive backs. Britt’s certainly beaten the Steelers in the past.
In Pittsburgh Britt would have a better QB and supporting cast around him than he’s ever had. I think that a deep WR free agent market (like the RB market) could allow us to find someone like Britt
Malcolm Jenkins, CB/S, New Orleans
Jenkins has had a rough couple of years in New Orleans, and with them adding Kenny Vacarro and our own Keenan Lewis last off-season, the writing was on the wall for Jenkins. He’s disappointed since jumping to the NFL, but it’s hard to ignore the talent he once had. Many compared him to Charles Woodson, who transitioned into a great safety. Signing Jenkins could provide the Steelers some flexibility in the secondary.
Lebeau has always seemed to love adding players from his alma-mater, and the fact that Jenkins is still only 26 years old makes him more attractive.
Nick Collins, S, Green Bay
Collins was a 3 time pro bowler with the Packers before suffering a serious neck injury. Collins scored on a pick-6 in the Superbowl against the Steelers. Collins has recently said that he’s healthy and wants to make a comeback in the NFL.
At 30 years old Collins would be a short term fix at the position, but he could give the Steelers a few years to let Shamarko Thomas and probably a rookie pick this year time to fully learn the position.
Taylor Mays, S, Cincinnati
This is one I’ve had countless arguments with people on twitter about. I was a big fan of Mays coming out of college, and he’s been a huge bust, yes… But I still think Dick Lebeau could use a guy with Mays’ skill set. Mays is a physical freak that can run all over the field and hit like a truck, but just doesn’t play well in coverage.
With Troy Polamalu playing hybrid safety/linebacker role this season, my interest in Mays returned. I think Mays could fit a role like that, or at worst, a nickle linebacker and special-teamer.