NFL Free Agency 2011: 5 Players the Pittsburgh Steelers Still Must Sign
The Pittsburgh Steelers still have some work to do before they are under the salary cap and have mostly turned their attention to restructuring deals and getting star defenders Lamarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu extended, but there could still be some unfinished business in free agency.
The Steelers aren’t usually big players in the free agent market, but could use some help at key positions.
Here’s a look at five players the Steelers must look at getting on their roster before the 2011 season opens.
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When healthy, Starks was one of the better linemen for the Steelers and anchored the left side of the line. The Steelers overpaid him in his last contract and were forced to cut him because of that, but it’s reasonable to think they’d want him back.
They need him back, too. He’s a consistent tackle. They need that on their line. Jonathan Scott, who currently projects as the starting left tackle, is a good backup, but he doesn’t have the ability to start and proved to be a liability a lot of the time last season.
Having Starks back would give the Steelers a solid offensive line and would allow 2011 second rounder Marcus Gilbert the time to grow and learn the system. Once he’s ready, it would give the team the versatility of moving one of Starks, Gilbert or Willie Colon to a guard position.
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The Steelers let Matt Spaeth, their previous backup at tight end, walk away in free agency after a season in which he was almost magnificently inconsistent. The Steelers have run a lot of multiple tight end formations and also routinely use a tight end in the fullback spot.
They need three tight ends to accomplish their offensive system, so a guy like Scaife makes sense. He’s a decent player who can catch and block well. He could end up being a good target for Ben Roethlisberger in the same way that the team envisioned Spaeth doing.
Scaife has experience too, so he’s a logical choice in a pretty thin tight end market.
Mathis is mostly a backup, but he’s a tough player with good instincts. He’s had a mostly inconsistent career, but he could certainly provide veteran depth to the offensive line’s interior.
The Steelers are lacking at guard right now. Trai Essex is a free agent and Chris Kemoeatu is hurt. That leaves Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster. While Legursky is likely deserving of a starting position, the depth is razor thin.
A guy like Mathis, who has experience within the division, would bring good depth and could also be in the mix to push Kemoeatu and Foster for their jobs.
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The Steelers have been using tight ends in the fullback spot for several years. They haven’t had a true fullback since Dan Kreider left. They could certainly use one to help open holes for running back Rashard Mendenhall, who suffers from bouts of inconsistency.
McClain brings that great blocking plus the added dimension of being a good short-yardage runner and receiver. He could give Ben Roethlisberger yet another target and could eliminate the need for a third tight end or a fourth running back since he can do both of those jobs on a limited basis.
McClain will be a tough sign because of interest from other teams, but he could be a valuable piece as the Steelers try to return to the Super Bowl.
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Floyd would be another tough sign. There’s a lot of interest in him from other teams. He definitely fits a need for the Steelers.
With news that Emmanuel Sanders is still recovering from a foot injury that required surgery, it’s important to shore up depth at the position. The Steelers released Antwaan Randle El as well.
Right now, with Sanders out, the Steelers have three viable receivers. Arnaz Battle is there as well, but he’s mostly on the roster for special teams work. The other options in camp aren’t overwhelmingly enticing, so going outside could be a good idea.
Floyd would bring a dimension similar to that of Plaxico Burress because of his size and hands. If the Steelers were indeed looking for a missing piece of their offense with Burress, they may still find it in a guy like Floyd.