This offseason is big for the Steelers.
Not just because the team is coming off a surprising 8-8 season and many feel the window is closing on an aging team. But because Pittsburgh is going to have to deal with some of their big players turning free agents.
The Steelers cap situation doesn't help this offseason either. Currently, the team will go into the 2013 offseason over the cap, much as they did in 2012. Cap guru Omar Khan will again be asked to work his magic and restructure some big deals, but just how much money will the Steelers have to bring back their own guys and others?
There's no doubt there's going to be some big-name cuts from the Steel City this offseason, but which players of the potential 25 free agents will be coming back and who will go?
Charlie Batch, QB -- Let Go/Retires
Batch has been a reliable backup for the Steelers for years now. He's done an admirable job filling in when Ben Roethlisberger has gone down with injury, including beating the rival Ravens in Baltimore and keeping the playoff hopes alive. But at age 38, his best days are behind him. Couple that with the fact that his veteran minimum salary would cost the Steelers just about $1 million and you can pretty much assume Batch will be finished in Pittsburgh.
Byron Leftwich, QB -- Let Go
It wasn't a very good season for Leftwich who seems to get hurt at the most inopportune times. Again, with the chance to show his stuff, he hurts himself on a touchdown celebration. Frankly, he didn't play very well and doesn't fit the Steelers scheme. Pittsburgh is going to have to look elsewhere for backups in 2013.
Jonathan Dwyer, RB -- Sings RFA Tender
Dwyer will be a restricted free agent this offseason, meaning the Steelers have the first shot at him and the right to match an offer from another team. If they don't, they'll get compensation in return. But seeing as he was the teams top back in 2012, I think they'd like to hold onto him for at least another year.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB -- Let Go
2012 was an unmitigated disaster for Mendenhall who carried the ball just over 50 times this season. He continued to show problems holding onto the ball and was benched and later suspended by the team before returning for the final two games. He refused a one year extension at the minimum before the season. Doubt he changes his mind now.
Isaac Redman, RB -- Signs RFA Tender
The former Bowie State product has been quite productive in his time with the Steelers, especially on third downs. If they're going to dump Mendenhall, they'll need Redman to help carry the load.
Mike Wallace, WR -- Let Go
It's hard for me to say this because, despite the drops and inconsistent play, Wallace has been a great player for the Steelers in his time here. But Pittsburgh generally doesn't throw money to wide receivers and it's perceived that Wallace could be asking in the $11 million per year range. There most likely won't be a hometown discount so I can't see him coming back.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR -- Signs RFA Tender
With Wallace gone on my list, it's a no brainer that the team would be bringing back Sanders who recorded 44 catches this season. He'll have to become more consistent, but Sanders has the potential to become a very productive receiver here.
Plaxico Burress, WR -- Re-Signed to one-year deal
In a bit of a shocking move, Burress' second stint with the Steelers could last a bit longer than three games. His place on the team depends solely on the Mike Wallace situation. But if Wallace isn't retained, Pittsburgh could bring Burress back for the veteran minimum to add depth and some size to a receiving corps that lacks both.
Leonard Pope, TE -- Re-Signed to one-year deal
Originally I didn't think Pope would be back in Pittsburgh, especially after losing out on the backup job to rookie David Paulson. But with the return date of starter Heath Miller still in question, Pittsburgh may need another tight end on the roster. They'd be inclined to keep someone who knows the system.
Max Starks, LT -- Let Go
Starks has been living on a one-year deal from the Steelers in each of the last three seasons and it's finally time for both parties to part ways. Pittsburgh has found three solid tackles in Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams and Kelvin Beachum and seems like they'll head in that direction. Starks should garner some interest from other teams, but could very well retire.
Ramon Foster, OG -- Re-Signed to one-year deal
Foster wasn't the best offensive lineman on the team this year, but he did an admirable job. He'd be a nice rotational/spot starter behind both Willie Colon and David DeCastro if the price was right. I doubt Foster will be a hot commodity on the open market so the Steelers should be in business.
Doug Legursky, OL -- Re-Signed to multi-year deal
There may not be a better fill-in starter for the Steeler than Legursky. He's been called upon time and time again to play center and guard and he's always been successful. With the way the Steelers have been banged up across the line the last few years, they'll need his services.
Casey Hampton, NT -- Let Go/Retires
Hampton recently said he wants to play two more years in the NFL. They won't be with the Steelers. He wasn't as productive as we've seen in the past and you have to question what he has left in the tank. It's time for the team to move on from their legendary nose tackle.
Steve McLendon, NT -- Signs RFA Tender
McLendon was a valued asset for the team in the limited time he saw. He showed good push and as good of pass rushing skills you're going to get from a nose tackle. He deserves a chance up front.
Alameda Ta'amu, NT -- Re-Signed to one-year deal
I was hesitant the Steelers would bring Ta'amu back and I truly think it depends on what happens in the draft. But the kid has skills and if he gets his act together, he can be a good player. Pittsburgh won't sign him long-term but a one-year deal is within the realm of possibility.
Larry Foote, LB -- Re-Signed to two-year deal
The 32-year-old Foote was supposed to be slowed and pretty much at the end of his career by now, but nobody seemed to tell him that. He had a great season and Pittsburgh will most likely be interested in bringing him back, but not on a long-term basis. Foote could get a two year deal from Pittsburgh while they develop players behind him.
Marshall McFadden, LB -- Re-Signed to one-year deal
McFadden spent time on the practice squad and was waived during the course of the season, but eventually found his way onto the team. He'll get a shot next season to prove himself.
Stevenson Sylvester, LB -- Let Go
Although he's a restricted free agent, I think Pittsburgh has exhausted all efforts with Sylvester. He can't seem to stay healthy and has never really developed into their system.
Keenan Lewis, CB -- Re-Signed to multi-year deal
It's going to be tough on the Cap, but I think the Steelers make something happen with Lewis. Not only that, but I think they're planning on him being their future No. 1 corner. Ike Taylor has two years remaining on his deal that will earn him $13 million. He's also 32 years old. Lewis, who is just 26, can become the top corner with a younger guy like Cortez Allen continuing to develop and eventually learning a starting spot himself.
Josh Victorian, CB -- Signs RFA Tender
Victorian was thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries at points this season and he developed nicely over time. He can contribute to the team and deserves to have a roster spot.
Will Allen, S -- Re-Signed to two-year deal
He did a nice job of filling in while Troy Polamalu went out with injury. Could be a very effective backup if the Steelers don't draft anyone.
Ryan Mundy, FS -- Let Go
Was absolutely atrocious most of the times he stepped on the field and eventually got benched for Allen. He won't be back next season.
Which Steelers FA is less likely to come back in 2013
Greg Warren, LS -- Re-Signed
He's been the long snapper here for quite some time and he'll probably continue to be.
Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, S
David Gilreath, WR
Justin King, CB