Fact or Fiction with the Latest Steelers News Ahead of the Start of Free Agency

Curt Popejoy@@nfldraftboardContributor IMarch 3, 2014

Fact or Fiction with the Latest Steelers News Ahead of the Start of Free Agency

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    The NFL free-agency period begins on March 11. It is typically a frenetic stretch of activity where teams look to add and remove players in hopes of building a contending roster.

    One thing that is close to certain when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers is that they typically aren’t serious buyers in the market. The front office is confident and does not typically allow emotion to get in the way of its moves. While other teams clutter the news with free-agent rumors and activity, the Steelers are almost always silent.

    Perhaps their most exciting moves in free agency in recent seasons have been letting top players leave as opposed to overpaying for them.

    Searching through the headlines, you won’t find a lot of pre-emptive movement by the Steelers. This is a franchise that typically keeps things close to the vest and isn’t known for splash moves. The 2014 version of the Steelers is no different.

    That doesn’t stop the speculations and rumors. Let’s look at five of them floating around and decide if they are fact or fiction.

Jason Worilds Drawing Interest

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    Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

    Tony Pauline from Draft Insider reported during the scouting combine that sources told him a dozen teams are interested in free-agent linebacker Jason Worilds. Looking at the validity of this claim, you have to consider the market.

    Is Worilds the best rush outside linebacker on the free-agent market? Perhaps not, but I am not sure you can find three who are better. That alone puts his services in high demand. Worilds had a breakout season in 2013 with 8.0 sacks in 15 games.

    With the proliferation of 3-4 defenses in the NFL, the demand for pass-rush specialists is high. It stands to reason that teams are going to line up and throw money at Worilds if they think he can find his way into double-digit sacks. 

    Verdict: Fact

    Pauline is a reliable source, so it’s safe to assume this is true on some level. Action on Worilds will happen quickly one way or another once March 11 gets here. As much as the Steelers need Worilds, it is doubtful they will get into a bidding war for his services. The ball will be in Worilds’ court.

Potential Steelers Draft Targets

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    According to Sports World Report, the Steelers could be targeting several players specifically in the NFL draft. These include Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee and Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The site even hints that the Steelers could be looking to trade up in the first round to get them. 

    If this is fact, it would seriously impact the direction the Steelers go in free agency. In particular, the wide receiver prospects are fascinating. With Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders as free agents, it only makes sense that a wide receiver would be an early target.

    This would also save them from having to pay a big free-agent contract to a veteran wideout. Salary cap could then be funnelled elsewhere.

    The notion of a trade up is more troubling. This team is already missing its original third-round pick, so wagering more picks to go up and get a wideout in a draft class this deep might not be so prudent.

    Verdict: Fact

    This seems completely logical from a Steelers standpoint. In particular, Evans fits the mold of exactly what the Steelers need. He’s a big target for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and has tremendous upside. This sort of rumor is hardly groundbreaking. It is more about a team with needs doing its due diligence.

Could Ben Roethlisberger Be Traded?

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Way back in January, Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com put it out in the site's rumor mill section that several teams, including the Houston Texans, would be interested in trading for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Texans are interesting because they are sitting at the top of the first round with a serious quarterback need. But are they willing to give up that pick for Roethlisberger?

    It is rare for a top-10 quarterback in the prime of his career to be traded away. The cost would be high, and it would force the Steelers to make serious adjustments to there offseason plan.

    The repercussions of such a move would resonate all over the league. And it would completely change the priorities of multiple teams in terms of free agents and draft picks they would consider.

    Verdict: Fiction

    There was nothing to substantiate it at the time, and going into free agency, there’s nothing coming back around to consider it anything more than a push for clicks. It is easy to put out rumors based on unnamed sources and draw in readers. There's nothing to see here. Move on.

Louis Delmas in for a Visit

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport sent out this tweet about the Steelers having Detroit Lions safety Louis Delmas in for a free-agent visit. A move like this makes perfect sense. Delmas had a solid 2013 season, but he has never been able to recreate the type of production enjoyed his first two seasons.

    From a football perspective, Delmas to the Steelers is smart money. He would likely come in at something of a bargain compared to other top-flight safeties. And if the coaches presume he is fully healthy, Delmas could be very productive in this defense.

    On another front, bringing in Delmas would allow the Steelers to transition Troy Polamalu into a diminished role on defense, as well as contend with the loss of Ryan Clark. The age of the secondary has been a point of contention, and Delmas is only 26 while Clark is a 34-year-old 12-year vet.

    Another real benefit would be that it would give the Steelers a veteran presence in the defensive secondary next to future star Shamarko Thomas. This makes far more sense than dropping another rookie next to him. 

    Verdict: Fact

    The visit was legit, and moving forward, expect to see Delmas back in for further discussion. This is a team in dire need of a more athletic safety presence in the deep middle. Thomas is a more natural fit at strong safety, and Delmas is an excellent fit in Clark’s old role. Of all the players who could come in and help this team immediately, Delmas might be it.

Emmanuel Sanders Headed Out of Town?

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Multiple sources have speculated that the Steelers and free-agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders are preparing to part ways this offseason. NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling reported that Around the League and multiple others expect this split to happen soon.

    Sanders had a solid season in 2013, finishing with 67 catches for 740 yards and six touchdowns—an acceptable season, but not a season to warrant a huge new contract. If Sanders wants to get big bucks, it will likely be on another team.

    The plan was for Sanders to come in and fill the role vacated by Mike Wallace. There's no doubt Sanders has the talent. His speed and quickness are impressive. If he can ever put it all together, he could put up impressive numbers.

    Verdict: Fact

    The writing is on the wall for Sanders. He was supposed to step into a starting role in 2013 and be that complementary receiver to Antonio Brown. However, he was never able to truly cement a starting spot and had some noteworthy lapses. There is little Sanders can do short of taking a huge hometown discount that will keep him in Pittsburgh.