First up for the Steelers is to sign a couple of impending unrestricted free agents. The only UFAs they will try to sign before March 5 are Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton, starting free safety Ryan Clark and kicker Jeff Reed. Reed will be their first priority. If they cannot sign Hampton to a multiple-year deal, they could franchise him. Clark will not be franchised or transitioned and is unlikely to come to terms by March 5.
Two veterans will not get offers before March 5, although the team might be interested in them if they do not get good offers elsewhere. Halfback Willie Parker and cornerback Deshea Townsend have been important members of two Super Bowl champions but they no longer are starters and would have to return as backups.
Starting right tackle Willie Colon will stay a RFA if there is no new CBA and they will issue him a high tender, as they did last season when he first became a RFA.
1. Offensive line: One reason the Steelers cannot run when they want is the blocking. They get no push from their front line. They have to develop a tackle at the very least and need to find their future centers.
2. Defensive line: They addressed this last year with DE Ziggy Hood in the first round, but they need to restock a line that has grown old. Another end and nose tackle are a must.
3. Defensive backs: With FS Ryan Clark likely leaving as a free agent, they have no one to replace him. Their CBs are below average as well.
PK Jeff Reed (tendered at $2.814M).
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--QB Charlie Batch is a reliable backup when healthy, and that is the issue because he missed all of 2008 and ended 2009 with a broken wrist. He wants to return.
--LB Rocky Boiman was a late edition to try to save their drowning special teams. He's not likely to return.
--SS Tyrone Carter won't get a contract from the Steelers again unless he finds nothing from anywhere else.
--FS Ryan Clark would like to return and the team wants him back, but they are not likely to settle on a price before free agency begins.
--DE Nick Eason, if he's willing to return at a minimum salary, could re-sign.
--DE Travis Kirschke, although he turns 36 this year, has been dependable and could re-sign if he does not go elsewhere, especially if they get nothing at the position in the draft.
--RB Willie Parker has seen his last days in Pittsburgh. They would love to have him back as a backup to
--CB Deshea Townsend thinks he can still start in the league and the Steelers have no plans for him to do that. If he finds nothing of his liking in free agency, they will offer him a contract to return.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)
--*OT Willie Colon will be tendered at the highest amount, as he was last season, his third as their starting right tackle.
--RB Carey Davis is listed as their starting fullback but rarely played and may not receive a tender.
--CB William Gay had a disappointing first season as a starter but not bad enough that they want to lose him.
--P Daniel Sepulveda was middle of the road and not likely to receive a high tender. He was drafted in the fourth round.
--OG Darnell Stapleton was their starting right guard until an injury put him on injured reserve. He could receive a lower tender.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--LB Patrick Bailey was their rookie of the year for his special-teams play in 2008, but dropped off last season.
--NT Casey Hampton: Potential UFA; $21.3M/3 yrs, $11M guaranteed/$6.5M SB.
--LB Derrick Doggett: CFL FA; terms unknown.
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