In what I think is going to be the most important Steelers offseason in recent history there are some decisions on offense in particular that will have to made by Mike Tomlin, GM Kevin Colbert, and the staff. There may not be many “must have” players like we saw last year when the guys like Polamalu, Woodley, Timmons, and Taylor were all up for new deals but there are still some important pieces of the Steelers puzzle to put together.
David Johnson – TE: He’s also the closest thing to a fullback that Bruce Arians will ever have in his offense. DJ has made some nice, clutch, receptions for Ben in the flat this year, especially early on in the season.
Doug Legursky – OL: Legursky is a jack of all trades, utility lineman and should be returned and signed to a long term deal if possible. He can play every position on the line and has been the primary backup to Maurkice Pouncey at Center. They would be wise though to keep him in the utility role because trying him out at LG earlier in the year did not go so well on a full time basis. He is better suited on the left side.
Ramon Foster – OL: Foster can play both Guard and Tackle but has been mainly used at RG the last 2 years and has gotten better in his pass protection. The Steelers will be looking to upgrade both Guard positions but Foster will definitely be in the mix and should return to the team.
Isaac Redman – Had an outstanding game in the wildcard loss to Denver. Redzone Redman will compete for more playing time especially with starter Rashard Mendenhall tearing his ACL in the last game of the regular season. The Steelers should have no problem keeping Redman since he is exclusive rights; which means essentially as long as the Steelers tender him a qualifying offer, which they certainly will, he’s either got to take it or quit the NFL. He cannot talk with any other teams. They would be wise though to lock up Redman if they can because he’ll be a hot commodity if he hits the market in the future.
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Byron Leftwich: If he can stay healthy, he is the best backup option for Ben Roethlisberger. He won’t garner much attention in free agency so it shouln’t be that hard for the Steelers to bring him back. The biggest issue is of course his health.
Charlie Batch: The elder statesman, Batch just continues to produce when called upon. His ability to do so kept him around year after year at a very affordable price tag. At this stage in his career he’ll either come back to the Steelers as the 3rd string QB or just retire most likely.
Dennis Dixon: He waited until the last minute to sign his 1 yr. offer to come back to Pittsburgh after testing the free agent market and not finding any luck as a starter. He’ll be gone.
Mewelde Moore: His MCL sprain kept him out of the last few games of the season and the wildcard game. Moore still does a good job in his 3rd down role and is great in blitz pickup. However it’s going to be a crowded backfield in 2012 with so many RB’s on the Steelers roster. He’ll probably be available if they want to bring him back should injuries happen and depth is needed.
Jerricho Cotchery: A younger version of Hines Ward, he was signed when Emmanuel Sanders started having foot issue in training camp and preseason. Still a very capable receiver and one the Steelers should try to bring back, but he may want more playing time elsewhere. He does like playing in Pittsburgh though and depending on what the team does with Hines Ward it may be wise to make a nice offer to Cotchery.
Trai Essex: Another utility lineman who filled in virtually every position on the Steelers offensive line this year, he was brought back before the start of the season to help bolster the offensive line. He can be had for a cheap price if they want to keep him.
Max Starks: The savior of the offensive line, Starks’ value cannot be underestimated. As long as the ACL injury he sustained in the wildcard game is not serious or he can rehab and be ready for 2012, the team will want to seriously look at bringing him back. Either way this position will be addressed in he next couple of years if not this offseason.
In a nutshell the players that will most likely return on offense: Legursky, Foster, Redman, Leftwich, Batch, Essex.
Those on the bubble: Johnson, Cotchery (only because he may want more snaps and he won’t be any higher than #4 for the Steelers in 2012).
Most likely gone: Dennis Dixon, Mewelde Moore.