The Pittsburgh Steelers have cleared their major hurdle of the offseason, which was locking up their franchise quarterback for the long term with a new five-year contract, which means they can now turn their focus to other, less important, yet collectively not much less significant, matters.
One of the remaining processes in the free agency period is taking a second glance over their own list of free agents, after the initial wave of free agency has cleared, and determining who they wish to bring back based on what has already transpired over the past several days.
The Steelers have already brought back, or lost, the majority of their key contributors, re-signing long snapper Greg Warren, outside linebacker Arthur Moats, and tight end Matt Spaeth while losing out on cornerback Brice McCain. They have also placed restricted free agent tenders on Will Johnson, Robert Golden, and Antwon Blake, all of who are likely to sign, and are options for a new contract with a slightly friendlier cap hit once they do so.
But there are four remaining free agents from the Steelers’ squad in 2014 that I could potentially see rejoining the team in the right circumstances.
The most obvious name is probably James Harrison, which is especially apparent given how the outside linebacker position has broken in free agency. Harrison could be argued to be the best remaining option available, yet it seems as though the Steelers are his only remaining option. This puts Pittsburgh in the position of playing wait and see, reevaluating need after the draft.
Another obvious possibility for a reunion is safety Will Allen, who has spent the majority of the past five seasons with the Steelers. He has played roles of varying degrees of prominence, including a good handful of starts, over the past three years.
He certainly showed that he can still be a contributor. This becomes much more likely to happen if the team makes the move they all expect them to move by parting with Troy Polamalu, whether via retirement or release.
The third name on this list is wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, and his return was made more likely by the team’s release of Lance Moore. The Steelers only have three wide receivers on the roster right now from last year’s squad—and that is from a group of six.
Heyward-Bey is a good team player in addition to being a good ‘teams’ player—special teams, that is. He can be an asset in the locker room and on special teams, and he has the potential to contribute on offense, all the which commanding no more than a veteran-minimum salary. They could do far worse. And if they draft a more enticing option, he could be cut with minimal dead money.
The final name on this list, which perhaps not too likely, is Michael Palmer. He is a serviceable journeyman tight end, but the Steelers have their top two tight ends under contract for the next two years, and seem dead set on coming away with a tight end in this draft that is capable of making the roster and playing. Still, he could be re-signed just to have a chance to compete in training camp, with minimal consequence for not making the roster.