(been working on this a couple of days - let me know if I've got old info - blush)

Team Review (8-:

At times, it was hard to pinpoint problems on the 2012 team. There were a few injuries, but, that happens to everyone, every year. I did have my concerns about the ILB core – I thought they made the wrong call keeping Foote instead of Farrior… turns out, it was a big problem.

This ILB move was key though, because late in games when the team needed to stop the run, they did tend to struggle, right up the middle. Foote is a UFA and rumor is Foote is considering retirement, he gets paid too much for how he performed, anyway. I don’t see him being re-upped – at least not at a starter’s salary.

Offensively, a few key injuries threw off the rhythm, but, my gut says they’ll be ok, with or without Haley, as long as Ben is healthy and works with Haley on a little give and take. EVEN MINUS WALLACE...

Key Upcoming Free Agents:
Free agency will be huge for 2013. There are quite a few players that are slated to be Free Agents (both restricted and unrestricted). I’ll list them all and highlight a few key players.

  • UFA: Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall, Keenan Lewis, Ramon Foster, Max Starks, Larry Foote, Casey Hampton, Will Allen, Doug Legursky, Plaxico Burress, Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich, Greg Warren, Ryan Mundy, Brandon Johnson, Leonard Pope, Justin King
  • RFA: Emmanuel Sanders, Steve McLendon, Jonathan Dwyer, Issac Redman, Stevenson Sylvester
  • EFA: Baron Batch, DeMarcus Van Dyke
  • David Johnson and Jeremy Kapinos are listed as FAs as well, but, have been
  • Notes on key FAs
    • Mike Wallace (UFA) – will likely get a similar contract offer to what he was given last year. Not likely to re-sign with team, making WR a potential need
    • Rashard Mendenhall (UFA) – My guess is that he’ll think he’s worth more than the team is willing to offer – especially considering Dwyer’s solid season. Apparently contract talks are in progress.
    • Jonathan Dwyer (RFA), Isaac Redman (RFA) – both likely to be tendered; If deal can’t be reached with Mendenhall, these guys would ask for more in a long-term deal
    • Keenan Lewis (UFA) – kid was actually solid; and quite possibly won’t be resigned because he’ll up his asking price… he knows he’s good
    • Emmanuel Sanders (RFA) – he’ll get tendered; ideally, he’ll get a low-to-mid-priced extension
    • Foster and Legursky would be good resignings – both are solid replacements and should come at reasonable prices

Resulting team needs:

I expect the team to move on from Foote. I expect that Hampton’s price is likely too big to sign him to a new contract. Considering Willie Colon’s injury history, he’ll either be cut or asked to take a pay cut – he’s not worth the $7.6 million cap hit he’ll cost. With any luck, they re-sign Foster and Legursky and have a solid core, with only mid-to-late rounders needed on the o-line.

Again, based on my gut feel on the offense, most of the offseason focus should be on the defense… How does the #1 defense needs help? Mostly due to losses, both, this offseason and expected in the next 2 years. It’s time to start planning for life after Harrison. He’s aging and now very pricey. When the season starts, Harrison will be 35; I've also read rumors he may be a cap casualty. Polamalu seems to be slowed more frequently by injuries and he’s also 30+. Finding a safety isn’t as pressing, however with him having injuries coupled with the fact that he and Clark are both in their 30’s, it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye to the future if a 2-4th round quality safety was available in this upcoming draft. In the meantime, lock up Will Allen.

Addressing those needs
NT: If they do part with Casey, they’ll need a solid NT, either in FA (Terrence Knighton?) or early in this draft. Because there are three or four projected 1st rounders, I wouldn’t be surprised if the team jumps in on that action. If not, there’s decent talent in the mid-rounds

ILB: A solid, affordable run stuffer may be found in free agency (I could see Tomlin calling on EJ Henderson at a bargain price as a stop-gap); otherwise, this draft doesn’t have any worthy players projected where the team selects in the 1st. The kid from ND (Te’o) will likely be gone, and the next guy (Alec Ogletree) has character flaws (failed drug test) and not the type the Steelers are likely to select. Expect an ILB in rounds 1-4, excluding a key FA signing

OLB: If something can’t be worked out to lower Harrison’s cap, I worry he could be a cap casualty. Expect a good pass rusher to be drafted early to either replace him or at least compete with the young talent

WR: If Wallace is gone, they’ll look for a WR in rounds 2-5 in the draft. Still, they’ll have Cotchery and could re-sign Plaxico Burress. WR’s think highly of themselves, so, best case FA would be another Cotchery-level player

CB: Depends on what happens with Lewis. If re-signed, I’m actually ok with the core; they could wait another year to find Ike’s eventual successor.

TE: This is lower on the priority list, but, we miss Spaeth. I could see a TE selected in mid-rounds to compliment Heath

QB: Expect a flier on a younger kid to compliment Ben. I’m sure Batch and/or Leftwich will be back… but… meh.

OL: There's always opportunity to take some, however, if Foster and Legursky are locked up, they young linemen taken in the last couple of drafts are gonna have the training wheels removed.

(Early) 2013 Draft possibilities:
NT, ILB, OLB, WR, DB (In order anticipated of priority – not necessarily order to be taken)

Based on talent available, likely to take NT. There are 3 first round talents at NT...

Round 1 Possibliites (ILB, OLB, NT)
ILB – Manti Te’o, ND; some mocks have him falling out of the top 10. If he does, look out
OLB - Barkevious Mingo, LSU; if he’s there, this is the “sexy” pick;
If NT is the pick, I wouldn't mind a trade down - I'd take any of the following 3 NTs
NT – Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State; Sylvester Williams, UNC; Johnathan Jenkins, UGa
ILB – Alec Ogltree, UGa; solid player with character flaws (failed drug test)
ILB – Kevin Minter, LSU; small reach… may be best with a trade down

Round 2 Possibliites (CB, WR, OLB, ILB, TE)
CB – David Amerson, NC State; Desmond Trufant, Washington
OLB –Alex Okafor, Texas; DE, who has played in a 2-pt stance
ILB - Shayne Skov, Stanford;
TE – Zach Ertz, Stanford (may well be BPA when they draft)

Ton of WRs here in the 2nd... and it's way early in our offseason... so, i'll stop there and wait for the combine before i try to "seed" more players in rounds... happy reading