Back to Reality: Steelers' Offseason Raises Many Concerns

Charlie Cox@@charles_a_coxCorrespondent IFebruary 12, 2009

Get off the Super Bowl high. The 2008-2009 season was a great one, but let's not make the same mistake as in the 2005-2006 transitional offseason.

First off, keep Ben off of a motorcycle.

After his June accident and emergency appendectomy, Roethlisberger was unable to play and suffered through mediocrity through the rest of the season.

But the main concern this offseason isn't preventing, it's preserving.

Management is a key factor that has become a concern; not just this offseason, but next. With the Steelers looking to resign only a couple of free agents, the slough of 2010 free agents should be addressed.

The key unrestricted free agents that are high priority are definitely cornerback Bryant McFadden and wide receiver Nate Washington. Both players had breakout seasons this year. With Deshea Townsend only getting older, the Steelers need another shutdown corner. McFadden has proved himself to be Ike Taylor's complement.

Hines Ward is also in his thirties and has an expiring contract next season. After the Limas Sweed draft bust, Washington's stock has greatly increased for the Steelers, and because of his speed, he would take a lot of pressure off of Santonio Holmes.

Other free agents include QBs Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich, TE Sean McHugh, LG Chris Kemoeatu, LT and RTs Willie Colon, Max Starks, Marvel Smith, and Trai Essex, DE Orpheous Roy, LBs Keyaron Fox, Andre Frazier, and Arnold Harrison, CBs Fernando Bryant and Anthony Madison, FS Anthony Smith, and Punter Mitch Berger.

Marvel Smith and Max Starks could easily be resigned. Smith has great capabilities, but he is constantly injured. Starks stepped up in the left tackle role this year but is definitely a stronger right tackle.

With only a few sure to return and the upcoming draft, the Steelers should have enough in cap room to give out extensions to the 2010 free agents.

"Fast" Willie Parker is on the top of the list along with Ward as questionable resignees. Parker will be 30 and Ward is going on 34.

The Rooney's have some discrepancies in signing players who are over 30, especially for large amounts of money. Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore could fill in Parker's role, but Ward's leadership is invaluable. Unless Ward follows in the footsteps of Jerome Bettis and takes a pay cut, he could easily be somewhere else.

Casey Hampton is another interesting name on the list. Drafted in 1998 with Ward, he will be 33. Hampton is the best 3-4 nose tackle in the game, and though he doesn't always get penetration, he occupies two offensive linemen, freeing up more gaps for the linebackers and defensive ends.

James Harrison and Larry Foote will also become free agents. Harrison is a for sure sign, possible extension, while Larry Foote will probably opt for somewhere else.

As for FS Ryan Clark, kicker Jeff Reed, and punter Daniel Sepulveda, the Steelers have a lot to look forward to.

Mike Tomlin always says to take it one day at a time, but Mike, you have to tell Kevin Colbert to start looking ahead, if you want to keep this team together.