Besides the changes on the coaching staff, the Steelers front office had to make several moves to provide salary-cap relief. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Steelers had to clear approximately $8.5 million.
They did so by releasing Levi Brown, Larry Foote and Curtis Brown. Foote is the most notable of the players released, but would have been coming off of a biceps injury that kept him out of virtually all of the 2013 season. This will force them to get young at the position.
LaMarr Woodley was also designated as a June 1 cut, making him the most significant release of the offseason.
By parting ways with Woodley, the Steelers have committed to starting Jason Worilds at left outside linebacker. For that reason, he received the transition tag.
Woodley had lacked production over the past several of seasons due to a numerous list of injuries. Combined with his high cap hit, it was time to move on in favor of the younger Worilds, who finally showed signs of being a quality defender last season.
In addition to the cap casualties, the Steelers also reworked the contracts of Troy Polamalu, Heath Miller and Ike Taylor. While all three players are on the downsides of their careers, it was important to keep them around because not only are they still capable of producing, but no adequate young players are ready to take over as starters.
The Steelers’ front office also broke the mold when it came to free agency. Rather than take a passive approach, they were aggressive and signed seven free agents from outside of the organization.
Mike Mitchell was the most significant signing, as he signed a five-year deal worth $25 million. He will replace Ryan Clark as the starting free safety.
Mitchell had the best year of his career last season with 66 tackles, 3.5 sacks and four interceptions. His speed at the back of the secondary will help a pass defense that finished ninth in the league.
The other six signings were primarily for depth purposes.
Lance Moore and LeGarrette Blount will play key roles on the offensive side of the ball, while Cam Thomas and Arthur Moats will be important reserves on defense. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Brian McCain will have to compete for a spot on the final roster.
Blount may see upwards of 100 carries next year, as he replaces Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones in the backfield behind Bell. Expect him to be the short-yardage back and get time near the goal line. Meanwhile, Lance Moore should see a significant amount of time as the slot receiver.
Thomas will be a rotational player along the defensive line where the Steelers lost Ziggy Hood and Al Woods to free agency. He may see time at defensive end and nose tackle. Moats will be the top backup on the outside and has the ability to shift to inside linebacker as well.
For now, the Steelers will have to sit tight in free agency, but more moves can be made once Woodley’s cap hit comes off the books in June.