The Pittsburgh Steelers have been a model franchise for almost a century. They have not drafted based on need, always on the best player available. They have very rarely made a splash in free agency, and they have always had an outstanding defence.
So why am I listing free agent targets? After all, I just finished explaining that they don't make splashes in free agency. The reason is that they still target players in free agency. Players that most teams don't and so the Steelers will never have to overpay for them.
To be fair, the Steelers have gotten impact players from free agency. Nobody expected them to be impact players though.
For instance, nobody expected James Farrior to be the leader of a defence that will rank at or near the top of the league every year when he signed with the Steelers. The Jets let him go because they believed his best days were behind him. The Steelers realized the Jets were wrong and were able to make a splash.
Another thing to note is that I am in no way qualified to figure out who the Steelers will target. If I was, I would be in their front office. However, I think this list is reasonable, and I expect the Steelers to target these players.
Yes I'm cheating. Willie Colon belongs to the Steelers. However, there have been ridiculous rumours that say the Steelers should be careful signing a player like Colon because of his injury. I don't agree. I think he is an outstanding player.
He has been a rock on RT and my guess is that when the offensive line is finished (if it ever is), Colon will shift to RG where everyone envisioned him to be when he was first drafted. He has far and away exceeded expectations, but really the Steelers need him to shift to guard and to use Max Starks at RT where he belongs.
This means the Steelers need to find a true left tackle. Also keep in mind that Colon is coming off a major injury. We cannot expect his quickness to be there anymore. Hopefully it will be, but we cannot take the risk.
Continuing the trend of cheating by calling their own player a free agent we have Ike Taylor.
Many people say that the Steelers secondary is terrible and that any elite QB with an excellent receiving corps can exploit them. While this may be true, how many elite QB's are there? And how many of them have a lot of good receivers around them?
Furthermore, I think the idea that the Steelers secondary can be easily exploited is a myth. How would they have the best defense in football if they are that bad in pass defense? They need to understand that the Steelers defense is built a certain way, and elite corners are not exactly necessary, they are a want.
However, Ike Taylor is a player who has done everything for the Steelers (except get interceptions). He is considered a member of the Rooney family, and so expect him to return and end his career in Pittsburgh.
Sepulveda is an outstanding punter. The Steelers would have to be crazy to let him go. Not only has he been a solid punter, his punting abilities has also been key to the Steelers defense.
When the opposition's offense is given great field position, you have to play more conservative. But when they are given terrible field position, can't you just imagine Dick Lebeau doing an evil laugh before sending the most terrifying blitz on the face of the Earth after the opposing quarterback?
Sepulveda is only 27 years old and has already won two Super Bowls. He has done everything for this team. Not only that, the Steelers always bring in a punter to challenge the incumbent in the offseason. He has won that battle for the last several years. He will be challenged again this year, and he will win.
Keep in mind also that there are no legitimate replacements for Sepulveda with the possible exception of Sam Koch, and he plays for Baltimore. As a result, he is expected to stay in Baltimore rather than come to Pittsburgh. So expect the Steelers to extend Sepulveda.
So I finally stopped cheating. Now before you call a doctor and have me committed, hear me out. After that I will go with the nice men in white coats.
Randy Moss is two years removed from setting some records. Most touchdowns hauled in in a season by a receiver and part of the greatest offense ever (coming from the man who loved watching "The Greatest Show on Turf").
He in fact was part of both of the top two teams in NFL history in terms of points. He is an elite wide receiver who has fallen on hard times. Classic redemption story right?
Think about it for a moment. Before the Patriots acquired Randy Moss, the Steelers wanted to as well. In the end the Patriots beat them to it, and it worked well for both teams. Moss was amazing in New England, and Pittsburgh has won one Super Bowl and been to another.
Now the Steelers have the chance to add that tall receiver that Ben Roethlisberger has wanted for a while. So why not?
So why would the Steelers want a disinterested Moss? Because he would not be disinterested in Pittsburgh. What Moss needs is a quarterback who can throw him the ball. He didn't have that in Minnesota (contrary to what Brett Favre fans will tell you), and he certainly didn't have that in Tennessee.
In Pittsburgh, he would have Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball. Seriously, that makes all the difference in the world to a receiver.
Moss has never really angered the Patriots, Bill Belichick just thought getting rid of him would help improve the team because their offensive game plan had gotten too vertical. So Belichick rectified the situation.
Moss' recent comments about his heart being in New England shows us that he never felt betrayed. He understands that it's not personal, it's strictly business.
Now, if some team offers a boatload of cash to Moss the Steelers should get out. But the opportunity to acquire a talented wide receiver for little because nobody wants him may be too much to resist for Mike Tomlin and company.
Now this is a prototypical Pittsburgh Steelers free agent signing. Although Kevin Boss has been tendered as an RFA, if and when a new CBA is negotiated, he will most likely be a free agent. So assuming he hasn't signed with the Giants yet, he would be phenomenal for the Steelers.
Boss is perfect for the Giants offense. He can help block for the running game and catch the few times he needs to. Notice that game plan is similar to Pittsburgh's.
Ben once told a reporter if he wanted something it would be a tall receiver, but of course, they never got him one. Boss would fit the bill to a T.
He can help block for Rashard Mendenhall, but more importantly he can do similar things to what Heath Miller does. For instance, Miller sometimes blocks for some time, but if the routes are not developing he sneaks out. Teams know this and expect it from Miller.
Although this is already tough to defend against, imagine being able to do that with both tight ends. Nobody will know which one will sneak out, and so if they cover the area Miller can sneak out to, Boss will do that and vice versa.
However, he may be considered a great tight end by teams. If he is then teams will be lined to sign him. At that point Pittsburgh opts not to sign him, but if the salary is cheap, say in the $3 million range (maybe I'm dreaming) then they will most definitely have to consider him.
I think he is a Heath Miller clone and the only reason he has not done as well is that his quarterback is inferior to Ben Roethlisberger.
Imagine being able to pillage a divisional rival. Now imagine that divisional rival to be your absolute worst enemy (mostly because the rest of your division is crap). Feels good doesn't it? That is what would happen if the Steelers signed Jared Gaither.
The man is an absolute beast. Before the year began, some people had him ranked as a top five blind side protector. The reason he may be on his way out is Michael Oher. Oher was drafted in the first round in 2009 and has shown the ability to play left tackle, forcing Gaither to play right tackle.
Gaither refuses to play at right tackle, he wants to play at left tackle. The Steelers would most definitely give him that opportunity.
Furthermore, he is only 25! That is as young as a free agent as you'll find. Although the Ravens tendered him like he is an RFA, he will be a UFA once a new CBA is signed, at which point teams may back off from him because of his injury. Although the injury may affect him, I still think he is an elite left tackle. He needs to be allowed to play the position.
To sign Jared Gaither would be cheap or else Pittsburgh may as well back off from him. By getting one of the best left tackles in the NFL for cheap, the Steelers would be able to shift Max Starks to right tackle (where he belongs) and shift Willie Colon to guard.
That alone fixes four out of five positions for the offensive line of the Steelers, assuming everyone can play at the elite level we expect. This would turn the weakness of the Steelers (their offensive line) into a huge strength.
The Washington Redskins recently gave DeAngelo Hall a huge contract. That may spell the end for Carlos Rogers. They will not have the money left over to sign him to an extension. Or perhaps they will find some money, after all, the Redskins are known for throwing money around.
Rogers is an excellent cover corner. He can cover some great receivers the same way Ike Taylor can. The major concerns with him are the injury last year and the lack of interceptions. To be fair, the lack of interceptions helps Rogers become a bit more affordable.
I don't think he can command top dollar like Stanford Routt because he is not as young and not as talented. Routt's burn rate was in the top three in the league, and Rogers simply is not.
The key thing to note is that I see him as an Ike Taylor clone. He would be perfect for the Steelers system, and having two Ike Taylors would improve pass defense by a lot. This would help the Steelers to become a suffocating team on defence.
Cromartie is one of the most underappreciated players in the NFL. He ranks in the top 10 in cornerback success rate according to footballoutsiders.com.
This stat shows the number of times the player a cornerback covers successfully catches the ball divided by the number of attempts. He ranked in the top 10 this year for that with names such as Darrelle Revis, and actually ahead of Nnamdi Asomugha!
To be fair, Asomugha covers the best receiver while Cromartie probably covers the second best receiver. But we don't need Cromartie to be much more than an elite second cornerback.
To get him cheap should be simple as the Jets had drafted Wilson last year and may want to start him this year. So Cromartie becomes expendable. I doubt a lot of teams pay attention to these stats, and if they do they probably don't need cornerbacks. As a result, Cromartie can be had cheap.
Again this would be an outstanding player that the Steelers can get cheap to upgrade the secondary some people have called terrible. I disagree, but upgrading cheaply through free agency is a philosophy the Steelers subscribe to.
Prater is an excellent kicker. While Shaun Suisham has been solid, Matt Prater is an outstanding kicker, and at the age of 26, has many more years ahead of him. He would be an outstanding replacement for Jeff Reed.
Considering Adam Vinatieri has only done better than him in two years of his career, one must consider him an outstanding player.
For the Steelers, they must have a great kicker. Their stadium is the hardest to kick a field goal in. This is why Jeff Reed was considered such a legend. He would put up those numbers in the harsh climates of Heinz Field. Prater is can be compared to Vinatieri in the future, this bodes well for his abilities.
The only issue with Prater is that kickers get paid a lot nowadays. As a result, if his short tenure in the NFL does not drive down his price, the Steelers will not and should not go after him.
Longwell is one of the best, if not the best kicker in the NFL today. His age may scare off some teams, but it is to be noted that kickers last into their 40s before they retire. Besides, Pittsburgh can draft and groom a kicker while they have Longwell to teach him the ropes.
The thing about Longwell is that he might get expensive. Elite kickers nowadays command salaries of $4 million per year. A lot more than I would pay. So if his age makes people want to think twice about signing him Pittsburgh may be able to get him on the cheap.
Another thing is that in all his years, he has never won a Super Bowl. Pittsburgh offers him a chance to win one. To get that, he may be willing to take a discounted salary. After all, what better way to solidify your legacy than to win a Super Bowl?
Expect the Steelers to attack the kicking position in free agency. This is a position that normally does not get too expensive in free agency and should be easy to address.
Also the Steelers will attempt to sign undervalued offensive linemen and cornerbacks as they will come cheap. So this would be perfect.
Also Kevin Boss and Randy Moss would be perfect if they came cheap. I don't know if Boss would, but Moss would almost certainly come cheap.
As such, these are the moves you can expect from Pittsburgh.