6 Veteran Free Agents the Pittsburgh Steelers Should Bring in for Training Camp

Mike Batista@Steel_TweetsContributor IJuly 10, 2012

6 Veteran Free Agents the Pittsburgh Steelers Should Bring in for Training Camp

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    The annual NFL free-agency feast usually is not a big part of the Pittsburgh Steelers' offseason diet.

    In 2012, the Steelers have signed a second-banana tight end in Leonard Pope, a special teamer in Brandon Johnson and a long snapper in Matt Katula.

    There are still a few free-agent table scraps remaining. None of these players are guaranteed to make a huge impact. If they were, they'd be signed by now.

    Nonetheless, some of these players are worth a look for the Steelers.

Melvin Bullitt, S

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    Melvin Bullitt has played in just six games over the past two seasons because of shoulder injuries.

    However, he's 27 and could bring a dash of relative youth to an aging position if he works out.

    The Steelers didn't draft a safety but picked up Robert Golden as an undrafted free agent and signed Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle in February.

    The Steelers need more bodies at safety for training camp. Troy Polamalu is 31 and Ryan Clark will be 33 in October.

    Technically, Bullitt is a strong safety, which is Polamalu's position. Does Polamalu really have a defined position, though? Bullitt probably could spell Clark without affecting Polamalu's role.

    Bullitt has seven career interceptions since the Indianapolis Colts signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2007.

    Four of those picks came in 2008, including one in the end zone on the final play to clinch the Colts' win at Heinz Field.

    Bullitt also had one interception each in 2010, when he played in just four games, and 2011, when he played in two games.

    Bullitt also was named to the USA Today All-Joe team, which recognizes unsung players who don't make the Pro Bowl, in 2008 and 2009.

Plaxico Burress, WR

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    If the Steelers bring Burress back after seven years, it would be reminiscent of Mickey saying to Rocky during Rocky II, "Ah, the prodigal son returns."

    Of course, Burgess Meredith pronounced it "retoins."

    With each passing day, it's looking less and less likely that Mike Wallace will show up for the start of training camp. He wants his long-term deal now and isn't willing to settle for the $2.74 million one-year tender, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN (h/t ProFootballTalk).

    Wallace could sit out the first 10 weeks of the regular season, sign the tender and still become an unrestricted free agent in 2013, according to ProFootballTalk. That's how bad this could get.

    Burress couldn't replace Wallace. He'll turn 35 next month and has lost some speed. However, he's not old enough to lose any height, which is something the Steelers don't have a lot of at wide receiver. The 6'5" Burress could be a red-zone weapon in lieu of the speed that would be lost if Wallace's holdout lingers.

    Seven of Burress' eight touchdown catches for the Jets in 2011 came inside the 20-yard line. After spending two years in jail, Burress caught 45 passes, averaging 13.6 yards per catch.

    The Steelers let Burress leave as a free agent following the 2004 season, basically choosing Hines Ward over him. It turned out to be the right decision. The Steelers have won two Super Bowls since then.

    However, if the Steelers are without Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders again fails to stay healthy, they'd be thin at wide receiver.

    That makes Burress worth a try.

Ryan Longwell, K

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    The Steelers' kicking competition in training camp figures to be between incumbent Shaun Suisham and undrafted rookie Danny Hrapmann.


    Unless the Steelers want the winner of this matchup of mediocrity to be their kicker, they need to bring in Ryan Longwell, who the Vikings cut in May.

    Longwell is 38, but is that really that old for a kicker?

    The Vikings cut Longwell after using their sixth-round draft choice on a kicker.

    In his 15-year career, Longwell has made 83.2 percent of his field goals. Even though he slipped to 78.6 percent (22 for 28) in 2011, it's still better than Suisham's 74.2 percent (23 for 31). And Hrapmann made only 67.6 percent (23 for 34) of his field-goal attempts at Southern Mississippi in 2011.

    Furthermore, Suisham has made only four field goals from 50 yards or further in his seven-year, four-team career. His career long is 52 yards.

    Longwell has made 11 from 50 and beyond. Six of them have been longer than 52, including his career long of 55. Longwell booted a 53-yarder last season. So he still has the leg.

    One of the reasons the Steelers brought in Todd Haley as offensive coordinator is so they don't have to rely on field goals for points. Every once in a while, however, you're going to need a 50-something-yard field goal, and Suisham's not the guy for that.

Ovie Mughelli, FB

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    It appears the fullback will play a more prominent role under new Steelers' offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

    The Steelers moved David Johnson from tight end to fullback because of his blocking ability, but if Ovie Mughelli is still looking for work when the Steelers are in Latrobe, they should give him a call.

    Mughelli is an elite blocking fullback. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller said in 2011 that he is "the best at what he does."

    The Falcons cut Mughelli, 32, in a salary-cap move, according to NFL.com. He was set to make $3 million in 2012. That's probably more than the Steelers can afford to pay him, but if no one else wants him, he might be willing to play for less.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR

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    If Mike Sims-Walker gets a shot with the Steelers, he wouldn't be surrounded by nearly as many cameras and microphones as Plaxico Burress would.

    Sims-Walker wouldn't provide any training camp storylines, but he would provide youth. He's 27, eight years younger than Burress. So even though his career seems to have hit the skids after a promising start, there's still a chance his best years are in front of him.

    Sims-Walker caught 63 passes for 869 yards and seven touchdowns for the Jaguars in 2009. He had 43 catches for 562 yards and seven touchdowns in 2010.

    His career took a nosedive in 2011. He was cut by the Rams after catching 11 passes in four games. Then, he rejoined the Jaguars and caught just one pass in two games. Jacksonville eventually cut him after he injured his knee.

    Sims-Walker wasn't signed after a recent workout with Houston. If the receiver-starved Texans didn't want him, he might not have anything left.

    However, Mike Wallace's contract situation hangs over the Steelers like a dark cloud, and Emmanuel Sanders has been injury-prone. Therefore, it behooves the Steelers to be on the lookout for receivers.

Jason Brown, C-OG

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    The Steelers upgraded their offensive line in the 2012 NFL draft.

    Now, it's time to get better backups.

    They need a stronger insurance policy for Maurkice Pouncey, who has missed the team's last two postseason games with injuries.

    Doug Legursky is versatile and has answered the call whenever he's been needed, but the fact that he can make this team is indicative of how bad the Steelers' offensive line has been.

    The 29-year-old Jason Brown might not have lived up to the five-year, $37.5 million contract the St. Louis Rams signed him to in 2009. But Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranked him 21st among NFL starting centers in 2011.

    The fact Brown can start for a team makes him better than Legursky. The 6'3", 320-pounder also is bigger than Legursky (6'1", 315 pounds) and can play guard. He started at left guard for the Baltimore Ravens in 2006 and 2007.

    So not only would Brown give the Steelers everything Legursky did with the potential of doing it better, he also could serve as insurance at left guard if Willie Colon gets hurt again.