The headline of this piece is something of a contradiction when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a rule, the Steelers don't cannonball into the free-agency pool. Instead they elect to wait until the rest of the league has jumped in, let the waves settle and then just ease in down in the shallow end.
That's not to say that the Steelers haven't been able to find some stars in free agency because they have—and did it without overspending. Here is just a partial list of some of the more prominent Steelers who some might not even realize didn't start their careers in Pittsburgh.
- Jeff Hartings, Center
- Ryan Clark, Safety
- Kevin Greene, Linebacker
- James Farrior, Linebacker
- Mewelde Moore, Running Back
- Brent Alexander, Safety
Other than Greene, none of these players were at the top of anyone's "must-have" lists for free agents. However, the Steelers are smart. They understand how to find players who fit their system and can contribute right away.
2014 might not be a season of flashy, high-priced free agents, but that doesn't preclude the Steelers from adding a player or two that can come in and help this team build on a strong finish to 2013.
All stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.
It might seem silly to include linebacker Jason Worilds on this list, but it makes sense. With the Steelers' current salary-cap situation, courtesy of Spotrac, being able to bring Worilds back could be as significant a signing as the Steelers make.
Worilds had something of a breakout year in 2013, finishing with eight sacks and 63 total tackles.
The free-agent crop of outside linebackers, specifically ones who can function in a 3-4 defense, is thin. This could drive Worilds' price up even more.
It is unfortunate that wide receiver Danario Alexander has had so many problems with injuries. Coming out of Missouri, Alexander's talent was as impressive as that of any wideout in the draft. At 6'5", 217 pounds, with elite deep speed—even with his history—he's a risk worth taking.
Obviously, Alexander isn't going to command an exorbitant salary and will be signed with the understanding that he might not be able to stay on the field.
Nevertheless, the 25-year-old wide receiver has shown enough in his 28 career games that, if the Steelers can retain one of their own free agents, signing Alexander poses almost no risk at all.
Coming off a very nice 2013 season during which he hauled in career-high 53 receptions, Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler is going to be on the free-agent market.
The seven-year veteran is well-traveled, having played with four different teams, including the Dallas Cowboys twice. Chandler is a huge target with a large catch radius and physical style of play.
Steelers tight end Heath Miller is still very talented, but has a contract that could force a change. Chandler is three years younger and would likely come much cheaper while bringing a very comparable set of skills.
If all you did was scout the box scores, you might not think of Miami Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll as much of an option at cornerback. However, at 6'1" and 205 pounds, Carroll is the physical type of cornerback that the Steelers would love to have line up opposite Cortez Allen.
Under closer examination, Carroll's 2013 season was defined by a litany of inures that exposed just how tough he is. The 27-year-old Maryland product and former fifth-round pick still has his best years ahead of him.
Chicago Bears safety Major Wright had a wash of a 2013 season, as he dealt with hamstring and neck injuries. It's a tough draw for a player going into free agency to have to fend off injuries, but even at that, Wright finished with 100 total tackles.
With Wright only being 26 years old, he has gobs of potential. Wright is a former third-round pick and has the skills to switch seamlessly between a deep zone safety and a run support presence closer to the line of scrimmage.
His aggressive style makes him a very nice fit in the black and gold.