Can the Steelers afford to keep James Harrison in 2013?
Kevin Colbert and the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to have to make some tough decisions this offseason. They need to retool the roster after failing to make the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
Despite having a talented roster, the Steelers faded down the stretch, as they were unable to close out the games that they needed to in order to qualify for the playoffs. They will look to bounce back by keeping their veteran core intact, but they may have to make the tough decision to cut a veteran or two.
Though it would be uncharacteristic, the Steelers even have a player or two they could shop around in the trade market to see if they can accumulate draft picks.
Keeping in mind that the Steelers have over 20 free agents, here’s a look at the status of on the Steelers roster heading into 2013.
Baron Batch is the Steelers' only running back under contract beyond 2012.
Ben Roethlisberger: Keep
Ben Roethlisberger is the franchise player and will continue to be for a long time. His health and comfort in the offensive scheme will be two of the keys to success for 2013.
Baron Batch: Keep
The backfield is very thin with Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman both being restricted free agents and Rashard Mendenhall set to become an unrestricted free agent. With Chris Rainey being released on Thursday, Batch is the only running back that is signed beyond 2012.
Will Johnson: Keep
Johnson had a solid year in his first season as fullback, and he should be even better next year. He is a solid blocker and has pretty soft hands for a fullback.
Jerricho Cotchery may be thrust into a larger role in 2013.
Antonio Brown: Keep
Brown is the team’s top receiver, and he will need to perform that way next year. He’ll take on an even larger role if Mike Wallace leaves via free agency.
Jerricho Cotchery: Keep
Cotchery offers some toughness from the receiver position and can start if needed. He should see more action in the red zone given his skill set.
David Gilreath: Keep
With Rainey gone, Gilreath should get a crack at returning kicks. He did not light it up last year, but he had a decent camp and will be one to watch.
Derek Moye: Keep
Moye will be a training camp body, but he does have great size and will have every opportunity to seize a roster spot this August.
Bert Reed: Keep
Reed is another camp body, but the Steelers need to add depth at receiver and should bring in a number of young and veteran options to camp.
Heath Miller: Keep
The Steelers began to use Miller to his potential this year with a ton of success. He will have to bounce back from a torn ACL, but once he returns, he will continue to be a focal point of the offense.
David Paulson: Keep
Paulson was a pleasant surprise last season. He earned the backup role behind Miller and flashed some potential as a well-rounded tight end. He may be the starter until Miller is ready to return.
Jamie McCoy: Keep
With Miller being out for an unspecified amount of time, the Steelers will need every tight end option that they can get. Things will sort themselves out in camp.
A third consecutive year on the injured reserve should mean the end of the line for Willie Colon in Pittsburgh.
Willie Colon: Cut
For the third straight season, Colon finished the season on the injured reserve. He is being paid way too much to not be on the field. Colon does bring a nasty attitude to the line, but he takes too many penalties for a veteran.
Maurkice Pouncey: Keep
Pouncey is the team’s best lineman and will be the fixture on the line for years to come. He should be even better playing next to a healthy David DeCastro next season.
David DeCastro: Keep
While DeCastro had to battle for a starting spot this year, he will enter camp as the clear-cut starter next season. He was held back with a knee injury in his rookie year, but he should be much more comfortable in the offense with a full camp and preseason.
Mike Adams: Keep
Adams was the Steelers’ top rookie of 2012 and was a key component of their revitalized ground game during the middle of the season. He will be the starter at right tackle next year.
Marcus Gilbert: Keep
With Adams taking over the right tackle spot, Gilbert will step in for Max Starks at left tackle. He may not be the ideal fit at the position, but he’ll be the Steelers' best option.
Kelvin Beachum: Keep
Beachum was another pleasant surprise. He entered camp playing both tackle and guard but had to start at right tackle this season due to injuries to Gilbert and Adams. He may get a chance to start at left guard. At worst, Beachum becomes the team’s top backup at guard and tackle.
John Malecki: Keep
Malecki is a scrapper. He is not a guy you want to see on the field, but is an adequate backup for emergency situations. He deserves a look at training camp.
Joe Long: Keep
Long was a player that I considered for the Steelers at the end of the draft last season. He has some upside and will be one to watch in camp.
Justin Cheadle: Keep
Another camp body, Cheadle is a necessary player to help fill out a training camp roster.
Brett Keisel remains the Steelers' best option at defensive end.
Brett Keisel: Keep
Many will call for Keisel to be released, but he is still the Steelers' best defensive end and will once again start next year. Even though he does start, Keisel should have his snaps reduced so he can remain fresh throughout the season.
Ziggy Hood: Keep
Hood never lived up to his first-round billing, but he is at least an average defensive end. He has started off slow the past couple of years but finished strong. This is his contract year, so he will have to play out of his mind to earn a decent second contract from the Steelers.
Cameron Heyward: Keep
Each week, Heyward seemed to show more and more, and now he is deserving of a starting spot. It is possible that he could take away snaps from Hood. That would put the Steelers' top two defensive ends on the field. Heyward should develop into a very good player for the Steelers.
Al Woods: Keep
Woods was a decent fourth defensive end. He provides quality depth and is capable of stepping onto the field without looking lost. While he is not a lock for the final roster, he is definitely worth keeping.
Alameda Ta’amu: Keep
It took the Steelers a month to release Ta'amu after his DUI arrest, but this wasn’t a punishment. Instead, it was just a roster move, and he ended up on the practice squad. He had a rough camp last year, so this may be his last shot with the team.
Hebron Fangupo: Keep
Fangupo was a quality late-season pickup and will have a chance to earn a roster spot this year.
James Harrison's best days in Pittsburgh are behind him and it is time for the team to move on.
James Harrison: Cut/Trade
Injuries and age are beginning to catch up to the Steelers star linebacker. He is not the same player that he used to be, and it is time to allow Jason Worilds to step in. The Steelers should shop him around, but it is unlikely that anyone will take the bait. It will be a difficult decision, but it is time the Steelers move on from Harrison and release him.
Lawrence Timmons: Keep
Timmons isn’t an elite linebacker, but he is very good and was the Steelers' best linebacker this year. He had several game-changing plays this year and will need to have even more next year.
LaMarr Woodley: Keep
After a dismal year-and-a-half due to injuries and poor performance, there are some who may want Woodley cut. That will not happen, however. The Steelers need him to be a dominant pass-rusher.
Jason Worilds: Keep
This should be a make-or-break season for Worilds. He did lead the team in sacks this year, but he needs to improve against the run and dropping into coverage.
Chris Carter: Keep
Carter has had the injury bug in his short time in Pittsburgh. He is going to have to beat that in order to remain on the roster, but he definitely deserves the chance to compete.
Sean Spence: Keep
Spence is the future starter at inside linebacker if he can recover from his knee injury. Even if he doesn’t start this season, Spence will be a key contributor on the defense and special teams.
Adrian Robinson: Keep
Robinson was the only young outside linebacker to flash pass-rushing potential last preseason. The undrafted free agent performed well against other third- and fourth-stringers and will be given a lot of looks this training camp.
Marshall McFadden: Keep
The Steelers need linebacker depth, and McFadden will provide it.
Injuries aside, Troy Polamalu is still the best playmaker on the Steelers defense.
Ike Taylor: Keep
When Taylor was injured, the Steelers' chances at the playoffs greatly decreased. He is not an elite cornerback because he doesn’t intercept the ball, but he can shut down virtually any receiver in the league. Taylor is still the top cornerback on the team and isn’t going anywhere.
Ryan Clark: Keep
Clark was the Steelers' most consistent defender last season and one of the better free safeties in the league. He could have been given consideration for team MVP.
Troy Polamalu: Keep
Injuries once again got the best of Polamalu last season. However, he still has some quality football left and the Steelers should definitely keep him. He reminded everyone when he returned at the end of the season that he is still a playmaker.
Cortez Allen: Keep
Allen has the best ball skills out of any cornerback on the roster. He could potentially be a star in another year or two.
Curtis Brown: Keep
Brown hasn’t quite panned out, but Keenan Lewis wasn’t very good early in his career, either. This has to be the year that Brown takes a leap forward with his development.
Josh Victorian: Keep
By no means did Victorian light the world on fire last season. However, he did do an admirable job after being thrust into the spotlight. He flashed enough potential to keep around.
Robert Golden: Keep
The Steelers need all the help at safety that they can get. Golden will have a chance to establish himself as a backup safety.
Damon Cromartie-Smith: Keep
Cromartie-Smith is familiar with the system and will help fill the void of Will Allen and/or Ryan Mundy if either—or both—leave via free agency.
Isaiah Green: Keep
Green is a player that will be used for training camp depth and will be kept on the roster.
Drew Butler's subpar rookie performance will not cost him a roster spot.
Shaun Suisham: Keep
Suisham had a very good year. Even though he doesn’t have the strongest leg, Suisham made some big kicks in 2012 and will be the top kicker heading into training camp.
Drew Butler: Keep
If the Steelers didn’t bring two punters into camp, the answer for Butler would have been to cut him. He was below average in his rookie season and struggled when the weather got cold. The Steelers need to bring in some stiff competition for him next year.