Pittsburgh Steelers Must Sign an Impact Free Agent in 2013

Mike BatistaContributor IMarch 18, 2013

The Steelers are all-too-familiar with Elvis Dumervil.
The Steelers are all-too-familiar with Elvis Dumervil.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are long overdue for a high-profile free-agent signing.

It's time they make another James Farrior-like splash.

St. Patrick's Day almost felt like Christmas Eve for Steelers fans. Names that didn't require the question "Who?" were reported to be in the Steelers' sights.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Sunday that the Steelers and Packers are both interested in former Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, the Steelers and Ravens both are interested in outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil. The Broncos released Dumervil last week after not receiving his restructured contract in time.

Signing a big-ticket free agent isn't normally how the Steelers do business. They usually dip into free agency for depth and build the bulk of their team through the draft.

This year, however, the Steelers have a lot of draft needs. Running back, wide receiver and outside linebacker are immediate needs.

If the Steelers entered the draft with just one spot to address, that would be one thing. But with so many pressing needs, there's no guarantee the Steelers can plug all those holes. If they pick a running back and receiver in the first two rounds, then don't see an outside linebacker worthy of a third-round pick, their outside linebacker won't come until a later round.

This doesn't even take into account the Steelers' underlying needs at inside linebacker, safety, tight end (they signed Matt Spaeth but he's a better blocker than receiver) and backup quarterback (they signed Bruce Gradkowski but still need one younger than 30).

The departure of Rashard Mendenhall to Arizona leaves Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman as the Steelers' top two running backs.

Bradshaw has averaged 4.6 yards per rush in his career and is coming off his second 1,000-yard rushing season in three years. The 5'10", 214-pound back has averaged 31 receptions over the past four seasons, including a career-high 47 in 2010.

The problem with Bradshaw is he's prone to fumbles and injuries. He lost three fumbles last season and fumbled seven times, losing six of them, in 2010.

Bradshaw had a screw placed in his right foot in January to hold together two fractures, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. He's had three surgeries on that foot, according to Rotoworld, and also has had surgery on his left foot and both ankles.

The Steelers still would need to draft a running back if they signed the 27-year-old Bradshaw. He probably couldn't take the pounding as a featured back. But he would upgrade the Steelers' running back corps.

Dumervil would upgrade the Steelers at outside linebacker, and make them even stronger at the position than they were before they cut James Harrison.

At 29, Dumervil is six years younger than Harrison. He's registered 63.5 career sacks, including 11 in 2012. Dumervil has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons he's played. He missed the 2010 season with a torn pectoral muscle.

The turnover-challenged Steelers defense also would be getting a player who forced six fumbles last season.

So how would the Steelers sign Bradshaw or Dumervil? They have only $2.75 million in salary cap space, according to Spotrac.

That doesn't seem to be stopping them from pursuing established free agents. Schefter reported that the Steelers made a late attempt at landing free agent left tackle Jake Long.

Long signed a four-year deal with the Rams that averages $8.5 million a season, according to Pro Football Talk.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranks Long No. 23 among NFL left tackles in his B/R 1,000 series. That's not an elite ranking, but it's 10 spots higher than Max Starks, and the Steelers' interest in Long signals that they'll find a way to sign a coveted free agent despite their salary cap limitations.

Even if the Steelers don't sign Bradshaw or Dumervil, they could sign a recognizable free agent at a reasonable price now that the initial free-agent frenzy has subsided.

It's about time they find another steal like Farrior.