Last-Minute Predictions for Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agency
NFL free agency starts today at 4 p.m ET. That loud collective yawn you just heard came from the vicinity of Steelers Nation.
Indeed, such news elicits about as much excitement from Steelers fans as a three-day marathon of Murder, She Wrote does in a Duquesne University dorm room.
Despite the lack of sizzle, free agency is a team-altering experience in Pittsburgh, usually in the form of a mass exodus of long-in-the-tooth veterans or over-valued young players.
This year is no exception. The hemorrhaging began last Saturday with the release of James Harrison and will continue through the next month or two with the imminent departure of Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall and Casey Hampton, among others.
Amidst all of the negative, however, there will be a couple of positives that come out of free agency this year.
Steelers Re-Sign Keenan Lewis
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Only Sherman had more passes defended (24) than Lewis (23) last year. However, Sherman also had eight interceptions to Lewis' zero.
And that may be the difference in Lewis staying in Pittsburgh.
Sure, there is a certain amount of luck involved in getting an interception, but you create your own good fortune. Many of the top players in passes defended also were in the top 10 in interceptions, including Sherman (eight) and Chicago Bears Tim Jennings (nine).
Is this just some sort of anomaly because of the Steelers' system or does it speak to Lewis' ability to go after the ball?
More importantly, does it mean that Lewis is just a system cornerback?
Let's face it, the track record of Steelers cornerbacks not named Rod Woodson who left Pittsburgh for greener pastures is not good.
D.J. Johnson and Willie Williams come to mind.
This is because the Steelers don't draft shutdown guys who run around the field with the opponent's best wide receiver.
And it's the shutdown corners that get the big bucks.
Is Lewis that type of guy?
Will some team throw big money at him?
But, I'm betting on the fact that the rest of league gets a little hesitant when thinking about throwing $7 million per year at a system guy with only one good year as his complete body of work.
Because of that, Lewis stays in Pittsburgh.
Mike Wallace Goes to Miami and Flops
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Peter King of Sports Illustrated reports that the Miami Dolphins may be outbidding themselves for the services of Mike Wallace. It looks like the 'Fins are taking a page out of the New York Yankees' playbook.
Giving $11 million dollars a year to Wallace is complete lunacy.
There is a reason why the Dolphins haven't been relevant since feathered hair and Duran Duran where considered cool.
The Steelers are making the right move by not signing Wallace, especially with the implementation of Todd Haley's offensive scheme. Wallace seemed to be a fish out of water last season, dropping several passes and never developing a consistent groove.
Now, he will get the opportunity to tread above water in Miami.
However, the big prediction here isn't that Wallace goes to Miami—it's how long he lasts there.
By the end of the 2013 season, the re-signing of William Gay by the Steelers will look like the better move.
Emmanuel Sanders Signs Long-Term Deal
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Once Mike Wallace leaves, the Steelers will have only have Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders as experienced wide receivers on their roster.
Plaxico Burress may be re-signed, but at 35 years old, he isn't a long-term solution.
Steve Breaston arrived and then left Pittsburgh without a contract.
Unless the Steelers draft a wide receiver who can make an immediate impact, they need to do something to bolster the future of their receiving corps.
Signing Sanders to a long-term deal will help.
The Steelers offered an original round tender to Sanders, which means that a team would have to give up a third-round pick to steal him away from Pittsburgh.
Some may take this as a slight against Sanders, but in all reality, it's just good business sense. No team is going to sign Sanders away, therefore, it would have been foolish for Pittsburgh to invest a higher tender on him.
Unlike the Dolphins, the Steelers don't bid against themselves.
However, the Steelers also aren't foolish enough to think that their receiving corps isn't dangerously thin.
That's why they will sign Sanders to a long-term deal before the season starts.
Sure, he's been a slight disappointment since he was drafted in 2010, but he has the potential to be a solid number two receiver at most, or a dependable slot receiver at worst.
And it's best to lock him up now rather than watch him have a break out season and garner big attention in free agency next year (see: Keenan Lewis).
Mewelde Moore Returns
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Yes, this isn't an exciting signing, but it may be one made out of necessity.
Plus, the Steelers seem to have grown fond of reunion tours with former players.
At the start of training camp last leason, Moore was the odd man out due to a crowded backfield.
Now, that backfield is looking a little spare with the departure of Chris Rainey and the soon-to-be ex-Steeler Rashard Mendenhall.
If anything, Moore provides a known commodity. He had 2,020 all-purpose yards in his four years in Pittsburgh. Furthermore, he should be well rested after only getting 13 carries for the Indianapolis Colts last year.
And at 30 years old, he still has another year in him.
The worst that can happen is that the Steelers sign Moore to a one-year veteran minimum contract and then cut him before the season starts if the backfield situation improves.
Dan Skuta Comes to Pittsburgh
Okay, this doesn't send chills down anyone's spine, but Skuta might be one of those guys that the Steelers hit the mark on in free agency.
Going to the Cincinnati Bengals undrafted in 2009 from Grand Valley State, he was a special teams ace who played both outside and middle linebacker. And at 26 years old, he has room to improve.
The one downside is that he played in a 4-3 scheme in Cincinnati as opposed to the 3-4 scheme played in Pittsburgh. However, other players have made the switch successfully and there is no reason why the over-achieving Skuta couldn't.
Signing Skuta would bolster the special teams and add depth to the paper-thin linebacker position.