The defense is getting/gotten old and it needs to be replenished, so it would surprise few if most of their draft concentrates on that side of the ball. Their secondary will benefit from Troy Polamalu's healthy return but they face the prospect of losing three of their top six defensive backs - starting FS Ryan Clark and nickel CB Deshea Townsend as UFAs and starting CB William Gay as a RFA.
Their offensive line has shown it is just not good enough and the draft could bring a top-flight guard or tackle. Another running back also will be needed to complement starter
Kevin Colbert, the Steelers' director of football operations, identified three "priorities" for the team before free agency began, all involving UFAs. They signed NT Casey Hampton to a three-year, $21.3 million contract, made kicker Jeff Reed their franchise player and likely have struck out trying to negotiate a deal with free safety Ryan Clark.
1. Cornerback: Even though the Steelers drafted corners in the third and fifth rounds last season, they got woeful play at the position and could lose starter and RFA William Gay and veteran UFA Deshea Townsend along with starting FS Ryan Clark.
2. Linebacker: The Steelers have little depth and no starting prospects behind their starting four, two of whom are well into their 30s - inside linebacker James Farrior will be 35 this season and outside linebacker James Harrison 32.
3. Defensive line: Although they re-signed NT Casey Hampton and drafted DE on first round last season, the Steelers' three starters are all in their 30s and they need to groom someone to take over for Hampton and one DE over the next two years.
PK Jeff Reed (tendered at $2.814M).
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--QB Charlie Batch is a reliable, when healthy, backup 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 Rashard Mendenhall but he wants more playing time than that.
--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.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--RB Carey Davis (not tendered as RFA)..
--OG Darnell Stapleton (not tendered as RFA) was their starting right guard until an injury put him on injured reserve.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)
--*OT Willie Colon (tendered at $2.521M with first-round pick as compensation) entering third season as starter at right tackle.
--CB William Gay (tendered at $1.101M with fifth-round pick as compensation) had a disappointing first season as a starter but not bad enough that they want to lose him.
--P Daniel Sepulveda (tendered at $1.101M with fourth-round pick as compensation) was middle of the road and not likely to receive a high tender. He was drafted in the fourth round.
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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