The NFL buffet is about to open! Free agency, the draft, and more free agency have been laid out to look as appetizing as possible. Visits with teams, the combine, pro days are all designed to whet the appetite of potential future employers. The Steelers are bound to be starving right now due to the roster bulimia that has left the team thin at offensive line, line backer, receiver, defensive back…. The good news for the Steelers is that following the purging of the last 30 days, their collective pants are fitting better and there are a few extra notches in the belt for second and third trips to the desert bar.
The first course for the Steelers is to tender offers to their restricted free agents. Mike Wallace is the high priced restricted free agent appetizer on the menu here. The good news for The Home Team is that if Speedy Mike and his agent find a better deal elsewhere, Pittsburgh will get that team’s first round pick. Not a bad deal, I guess, but doesn’t do anything to stop the rumbling in the tummy right now. The rest of the Steelers’ restricted free agents are less mouth watering for sure: Ryan Mundy is a solid back up at safety but while playing in place of Ryan Clark in Denver showed that he and Troy have a little lack of on field communication at times…. (that one time being the last play of the season). Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster are OK pro players. The Big Legursky is a better lineman to keep around because the team can seemingly plug him in anywhere on the line and he looks like a starter (a Steelers starter, that is). The financial bummer about Foster and Legursky is that, since they were undrafted, the Steelers get zilch compensation for them if they go elsewhere. The upside (???) is that they were undrafted and therefore probably not burning up the war room phones. David Johnson’s stock went up toward the end of last season. He was blocking like ¾ of a full back and loosely catching passes like a tight end. Not a bad combination for made up ‘tweener position. Although he has tremendous potential, Wesley Saunders will be serving a 4 game suspension for some kind of substance shenanigans to start his 2012 season. Johnson seems like a keeper for now.
The list of unrestricted free agents is full of starters in waiting, starters due to injury, and starters never to be. At non starting quarterback we have Charlie Batch, and Dennis Dixon, and Byron Leftwich. Dixon was asking for a trade last year so I’m guessing he is gone. Don’t be surprised to see Ben being backed up by C. Batch yet again. Leftwich can hold a clipboard in whichever arm is not in a sling next season for some other team. Bu bye, Byron. William (or Will or Willie) Gay is no Ike Taylor…… But he played pretty much kinda, sorta good last year. He will probably get some looks from 28 teams needing a cornerback. Gay could stay. Gay could go. Trai Essex and Max Starks are free agent O linemen. Thank God for Max last year! The lineman that was too fat to play slimmed down and kept Ben out of the ICU all season. Off season knee surgery for Max is nothing but bad news for him and the Steelers. Who knows what the future holds there. How valuable does Jericho Cotchery look now? He has some quicks. He has some hands. He has some over the middle. I hope the Steelers sign him up. Especially if Wallace skips town. Mewelde Moore is another offensive free agent type. He is a friend of Mike’s and has been the Steelers third down back since Tomlin arrived. Notice I didn’t refer to MM as a “specialist”…. That would be a stretch. It is yet to be seen how Todd Haley (now only the Steelers fourth most jaw dropping move of the off season) will incorporate players like M. Moore and D. Johnson into his offensive scheme.
There are a few more names on the list: The often injured Dan Sepulveda, the underperforming Anthony Madison, the unproven Keenen Lewis, and the unidentified, Jamon Meredith (the Steelers ‘Captiain Tuttle’). The Steelers never fill up early on free agents and have precious few dollars to throw around if they are serious about keeping Wallace. Save room for desert, I hear it’s worth the wait….