Offseason Forecast: Pittsburgh Steelers
By Gregg Rosenthal
Published: Feb. 10, 2014
In a fast-changing league, the Pittsburgh Steelers prefer stability. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley remains on board. Dick Lebeau will coordinate the Steelers' defense for an 11th straight year despite a deeply disappointing 2013. The Steelers shed a lot of veteran dead weight last year, but didn't see their young players step up enough. Expect more purging this offseason, with a lot of turnover on an aging roster.
Biggest free agents
» Jason Worilds, LB: Worilds played great down the stretch as a starter after being moved to the left side, essentially taking LaMarr Woodley's job. That should earn Worilds big money this offseason -- perhaps too much for the Steelers to afford.
» Emmanuel Sanders, WR: He looks better as a slot receiver than on the outside. After so-so production in 2013, the Steelers probably will be comfortable letting him walk with Markus Wheaton waiting in the wings.
» Jerricho Cotchery, WR: If Sanders leaves, the Steelers might place more of a premium on bringing Cotchery back after a 10-touchdown season.
» Ryan Clark, S: He had a great run in Pittsburgh, but it looks to be over now.
» Brett Keisel, DE: If he returns, it will be at a low-cost, low-risk price. The Steelers need help at defensive end because Ziggy Hood is likely on the way out.
Other key free agents: Hood, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB Jonathan Dwyer, S Will Allen, DT Al Woods.
What they need
This roster has taken a beating in recent years and has a lot of holes. Two of Pittsburgh's top three wideouts are free agents. There are holes for starting jobs at every level of the defense, especially on the defensive line. The Steelers have big questions on the offensive line, but will count on growth from within.
On the way out?
» LaMarr Woodley, LB: He's had injury problems and conditioning questions since signing a huge deal in 2011. Woodley's cap figure is enormous whether or not he's on the team, so it's a tough decision. It's possible the Steelers could re-sign Worilds and let Woodley go if he doesn't take a pay cut.
» Troy Polamalu, S: He's a candidate for release because of his $8.25 million salary. But Polamalu has the support of ownership, which goes a long way.
» Ike Taylor, CB: He almost will certainly have to take a big pay cut from his $7 million salary to stay.
» Levi Brown, OT: No question mark needed here. He's as good as gone because of his $6 million salary.
Offseason crystal ball
This is a fascinating offseason in Pittsburgh. Ownership can only remain patient with Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert for so long. This is not a franchise in the habit of making quick fixes, but it's sorely needing a lot of new starters. There are big decisions at every level of the defense. My guess: They give Woodley another shot and let Worilds walk. Polamalu and Cotchery stay. Sanders, Clark and Taylor all land elsewhere.
In Roethlisberger we trust.