Several days ago, Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II said in an interview that the organization has narrowed down just a handful of players that they might be in conversations with in terms of contract extensions. While we know guard David DeCastro is nearly guaranteed to receive a new long term deal in the coming days or weeks after having his fifth-year option picked up last year, a Thursday media report indicates that he’s likely to be the only player the team comes to terms with with on an extension between now and the start of the 2016 regular season.
According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, running back Le’Veon Bell, linebacker Lawrence Timmons and wide receiver Markus Wheaton are all unlikely receive contract extensions this offseason which means all three are likely to become unrestricted free agents come the start of the 2017 league year in March.
None of the three names listed in Bouchette’s report are overly surprising and especially Bell, who is currently appealing a four-game suspension for reportedly violating the league’s substance abuse policy in addition to attempting to overcome a knee serious knee injury that forced him to miss the second half of the 2015 season. The outcome of his appeal won’t be known for a few more weeks. The Steelers could ultimately decide to place the franchise tag on Bell, however.
As for Timmons, who has stated several times during the offseason that he would like to finish his career where it started, it apparently isn’t looking like he’ll get a new deal. As for Wheaton, the least surprising name on the list of players named by Bouchette, it’s long been a forgone conclusion that he’ll be allowed to test free agency next year.
Should Timmons and backup inside linebacker Vince Williams both remain unsigned prior to the start of the regular season, both could quite possibly be wearing different uniforms in 2017. That could ultimately result in the team needing to address the inside linebacker position in the first four rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft should they determine this season that one of this year’s seventh-round selections, linebacker Tyler Matakevich, isn’t starter material.
While it’s not looking good for Timmons and Williams to get new deals right now, you still can’t rule out the team trying to re-sign either of them after the 2016 season ends and before free agency gets underway. For now, DeCastro looks like he might be the only player who gets a new deal as general manager Kevin Colbert has indicated several times during the offseason that wide receiver Antonio Brown will likely have to wait until next offseason for a new deal. If anything gets done with Brown in the coming weeks it will likely be him receiving some of his 2017 money this year.
While not named in Bouchette’s report DeAngelo Williams, Landry Jones, Cody Wallace, James Harrison, Bruce Gradkowski, Jarvis Jones, Shamarko Thomas, Ricardo Mathews, and Greg Warren are a few of the other players currently expected to make the 2016 roster who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after the season is over.