Pittsburgh Steelers: Potential Free Agent Additions in 2012

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IMarch 4, 2012

Pittsburgh Steelers: Potential Free Agent Additions in 2012

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    As the conclusion of the 2011 NFL year is upon us, the Pittsburgh Steelers have done the housekeeping that has been needed (and then some) to get in compliance with the 2012 salary cap.

    No longer are there any reports of how far over the cap the Steelers are. After their waves of restructurings and releases, the Steelers sit at nearly $15 million under the 2012 salary cap.

    That leaves a lot of open doors for the Black and Gold.

    Mike Wallace is not going to be receiving the franchise tag and will get an offer of $2.7 million. The Steelers will get a first-round pick if another team signs him, but that will still leave a boat-load of money for the Steelers to spend this offseason.

    With two first-round draft picks, the Steelers will still not come close to the salary they have available, so with this list, I will show you the likely players that may be joining the Steelers when the free-agency period opens.

Running Back

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    With uncertainty regarding Rashard Mendenhall and his torn ACL, the Steelers may be taking a run at a replacement for him on the free-agent market.

    There are plenty of players that the Steelers could go after, if they so choose.

    Michael Bush (Raiders)

    Peyton Hillis (Browns)

    LeRon McClain (Chiefs)

Wide Receivers

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    With Hines Ward already released, Mike Wallace possibly leaving and Jericho Cotchery potentially gone as well, you can bet that the Steelers will replace at least one of these players through free agency.

    Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs, if not franchised) would give the Steelers the tall receiver they have wanted since Plax left.

    Laurent Robinson (Cowboys)—The Cowboys must allow Robinson to become a free agent based on his last contract.

    Marques Colston (Saints) will become a free agent, would fit nicely with Brown's and Sanders' speed. He would easily replace the production of Ward.

Offensive Line

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    One of the Steelers' greatest needs are along the offensive line.

    If they were to address that area in free agency, it would open up a lot of options in the draft.

     

    Tackle

    Jared Gaither (Chargers)—Hailey took a chance on Gaither last year, and after he left KC, Gaither was released, only to resurface in San Diego as a good player. Knowing the Ravens wouldn't hurt, either.

    Jeff Backus (Lions)

     

    Guard

    Ben Grubbs (Ravens)—With the Ravens franchising Ray Rice, Grubbs is available and possibly one of the best guards in the NFL.

    Carl Nicks (Saints)—With the Saints using the franchise tag on Drew Brees, Nicks would be available and could also be considered one of the best guards in the NFL.

     

    Any way you look at it, signing any of these players would be an upgrade over the injured Max Starks. This would give the Steelers a lot of freedom in the NFL draft.

Defensive Tackle

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    Though I fully expect the Steelers to address this position at the top of the draft, or in the second round at least, signing one of these free agents could boost the availability of players the Steelers may want in the draft, as other teams may not trade ahead of Pittsburgh for a player the Steelers want.

     

    Defensive Tackle

    Paul Solai (Dolphins) made the Pro Bowl last year as a NT and could easily replace Casey Hampton this year.

    Brodrick Bunkley (Broncos)

Cornerback

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    Though corner may not be seen as a need to some people, the Steelers have Will Gay (free agent) and Keenan Lewis (RFA), who may not be with the team next year.

    If these players are gone, the Steelers could decide to upgrade the position in free agency.

    Cortland Finnegan (Titans)—Though he will be one of the most sought-after players on the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers could set Finnegan across from Ike Taylor and shut down any passing attack.

    Carlos Rodgers (49ers) is also a better player than he gets credit for.

Safety

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    The Steelers need depth in their secondary, especially at the safety position.

    They need to bring in a player or two to back up and eventually replace Ryan Clark and/or Troy Polamalu.

    LaRon Landry (Redskins)—The last time the Steelers signed a safety away from the Redskins (Ryan Clark), it worked out pretty well for them. Besides, look at the size of this guy.

    Michael Griffin (Titans)—If the Titans franchise Finnegan, then they will lose Griffin. Either could be a solid player on the Steelers.

Kicker

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    Kicker is always a need in the NFL, and even the Steelers could use an upgrade.

    Yes, the players they have had are good, but some good competition never hurt anyone!

     

    Kicker

    Phil Dawson (Browns)—The only player in Cleveland that has a legit shot at making the Steelers.

Conclusion

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    Though the odds of any of these players joining the Steelers are slim, it is nice to talk about players who could be coming to Pittsburgh instead of all of those that are leaving.

    The Steelers now have some cap room to use, which (like always) they will use.

    The only question is: Which players are the Steelers going to spend that money on?

    The choices are wide open, but any player the Steelers bring in will probably be one that will contribute.