The Steelers seemingly set out at the start of free agency with the objective to get the defense younger. At this point they can consider that mission accomplished. While there are certainly more moves that can be made, the signings of Mike Mitchell and Cam Thomas have certainly provided some youth and depth for the defense. Now, with the departures of free agents Emmanuel Sanders and Jonathan Dwyer, the offensive unit could use some attention as well. What’s left in the free agent market for the Steelers at running back and wide receiver?
After Monday’s re-signing of offensive lineman Guy Whimper, the Steelers remain just less than $3 million under the salary cap at this point. Now there can still be some restructures/extensions happening with players like Lawrence Timmons and of course Ben Roethlisberger, as well as signing Jason Worilds to a long-term contract to lessen his cap hit to create more cap space if the Steelers intend on doing some more free agency shopping.
For the running back position, the needs are clear; Le’Veon Bell is the starter first and foremost so a backup running back, with some experience to help spell the soon-to-be sophomore halfback would be ideal. According to CBSSports.com the remaining running backs in what they consider to be the top-15 are:
Vonta Leach (FB)
Green Bay’s James Starks had a meeting with the Steelers scheduled for Tuesday, but cancelled it after re-signing with the Packers. I don’t know if the Steelers would be shopping in the top tier of available free agent running backs, considering they wouldn’t be needing to overpay for a backup. Keep in mind that LaRod Stephens-Howling and Felix Jones are still available as well, for what it’s worth.
This years’ draft is reportedly very thin at running back as it was last year as none are expected to go in the first round so that, along with the inexperience of Bell as the starter would lead me to think that a veteran (on the younger side of “veteran”) would be a great pickup at the right price. Unfortunately, those guys just don’t grow on trees.
The options at wide receiver get a little trickier. When it comes to the Steelers depth chart right now, Antonio Brown is the undisputed #1 receiver on the team, but life without the possibility of a veteran like Jerricho Cotchery looks pretty dim considering the minimal experience of the guys behind Brown. Not necessarily the lineup of receivers you’d give to a quarterback like Roethlisberger to work with.
Now some of those guys on that list are still looking for top WR money, so there’s no use in even entertaining the idea of them. Notice that they’ve ranked Lance Moore, who has a meeting scheduled with the Steelers on Tuesday, ahead of Jerricho Cotchery, who is meeting with the Carolina Panthers currently. Moore is coming off of a bad year in 2013 while Cotchery is coming off of a career-high year and both are relatively the same age. Moore had a career-high year in 2012, while Cotchery’s 2012 numbers are way lower than last year’s. While I think Steeler Nation, including Ben Roethlisberger, would prefer Cotchery return over the addition of Moore, I think there might not be that big of a drop off between the two.
When it comes to the draft, the Steelers can go nuts at wide receiver if they want to, that’s how deep it is. Still, you’d like to provide Roethlisberger with a little bit more proven weapons than Brown and some young guys wouldn’t you?
What are your thoughts, Steeler Nation? Where do you see the Steelers going in free agency for the RB and WR positions?