Pittsburgh Steelers: LaMarr Woodley and the Rest of the Offseason Checklist

Ben Heck@@benheckONContributor IIIJune 14, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers: LaMarr Woodley and the Rest of the Offseason Checklist

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 23:  LaMarr Woodley #56 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers on December 23, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    It's rare to see a Super Bowl runner-up going out the next offseason and looking to sign a big-name free agent to add to its arsenal.

    It's even more rare to see the Rooney's Pittsburgh Steelers going out over the offseason and throwing around big bucks in an attempt to reel in a big, expensive free agent.

    That's exactly why the Pittsburgh Steelers will be spending its summer attempting to keep current players out of the free agent pool.

    With high hopes that this lockout will end between mid-July to mid-August, I think it's about time we take a look at exactly what Pittsburgh has on its "to-do" list to prepare for the season.

Re-Signing LaMarr Woodley

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  LaMarr Woodley #56 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a sack against the New York Jets during the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers won 24-19. (Photo
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    There's no arguing that bringing back OLB LaMarr Woodley is No. 1 on Pittsburgh's offseason to-do list.

    When you are coming off a Super Bowl contending season such as the Steelers are this year, you know you already have the blueprints to winning a championship right in front of you. Now all they need to do is keep it together and maybe add a piece or two to make another run.

    Posting 39.0 sacks in 47 starts for Pittsburgh's hard-hitting defense over the last four seasons, there's no doubt that Woodley is a key component to the pass rush.

    Both the team, and Woodley himself, have hinted towards the idea of a long-term deal in Woodley's future. I don't think that would surprise anyone who follows the National Football League.

Re-Signing Ike Taylor

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Ike Taylor #24 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the New York Jets during the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers won 24-19. (Photo by Nick Laham/G
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Priority No. 2: bringing back talented all-around cornerback Ike Taylor.

    Taylor publicly announced that he wants to remain a Steeler.

    Surprise? Not really.

    The 31-year-old has made a home in Pittsburgh, winning two championships with the team since entering the league as a rookie in 2003.

    He has also said he wants a long-term deal. But, for a 31-year old to sign a long-term deal, I am not exactly sure it will happen.

    At first Taylor said he would test the free agent market, then he recanted that statement and said he would like to remain a Steeler. But he has also said he will not take a discount, and will ask for the market price.

    The Steelers have not said whether they will offer him a long-term contract or not, but if Taylor is asking too much it would not surprise me if Pittsburgh let him test the market.

    It would be a good move for them to re-sign Taylor, and whether or not it's long-term, all signs point towards Taylor remaining with the Black and Gold.

Signing Draft Picks

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    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 13:  Cameron Heyward #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes chases after quarterback Matt McGloin #11 of the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The draft is the place to go to find talent in Pittsburgh. Past Steelers rosters have been built from the bottom up via the draft, not free agency (like I stated in the introduction). Roethlisberger, Mendenhall, Ward, Wallace, Aaron Smith, Woodley, Polamalu (the list goes on) were all a result of smart drafting by the Pittsburgh front office.

    Pittsburgh hasn't had too many busts over the last couple of decades thanks to careful scouting and smart selecting.

    That is why this is right up there with the re-signings of players who have already made an impact on the team (Woodley, Taylor).

    The team's first couple of picks may be asked to step up early in the season and it's important to sign them as soon as the lockout is lifted so they can join fellow teammates and their coaches in learning the system.

    Round 1/pick 31: Cam Heyward, DT (pictured)
    Round 2/pick 63: Marcus Gilbert, OL
    Round 3/pick 95: Curtis Brown, DB
    Round 4/pick 128: Cortez Allen, DB
    Round 5/pick 162: Chris Carter, DL
    Round 6/pick 196: Keith Williams, OL
    Round 7/pick 232: Baron Batch, RB

Keeping Polamalu and Pouncey Healthy

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Maurkice Pouncey #53 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is helped off of the field after being injured in the first quarter against the New York Jets during the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23, 2011 in Pittsbu
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Troy Polamalu has missed a total of 13 games over the last two seasons (two in 2010, 11 in 2009), and evidence is there that the defense suffers with Polamalu absent.

    Polamalu's solid 2010 campaign, which allowed Pittsburgh to capture the AFC Championship, showed us that he is back to full health, but I think his teammates should force him to workout in a plastic bubble until the lockout is over and training camps are in full swing.

    As for Pouncey, the Pro Bowl center anchored the offensive line as a rookie last season, but a sprained ankle forced the former Florida Gator to miss what would've been the biggest game of his life—the Super Bowl.

    If there is a larger-sized bubble lying around here, please get it to Pouncey as soon as possible.

Throwing Hines Ward a Party

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Hines Ward #86 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts against the Green Bay Packers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. The Packers won 31-25. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Now here's for the fun part.

    Hines Ward has done so much for the Pittsburgh Steelers since he was selected in the third round of the 1998 NFL draft. As a quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs in college, Ward made the permanent switch to wideout and has put up Hall of Fame numbers in Pittsburgh.

    He's obviously been a fan favorite for over a decade, and the end is in the very near future. The already two-time champ would likely retire after this season if they are able to take home the Lombardi trophy. Heck, he may even do so if they don't win it all.

    One of the biggest reasons I've added this slide, however, is because of the fact that he isn't just a big-time professional footballer anymore. Last month he and his dance partner Kym Johnson battled adversity and took home the "Dancing with the Stars" trophy, which he will be placing right next to his SB XL MVP trophy.

    It's a joyous time in Pittsburgh, throw that man a party!