Guard Alan Faneca will be an unrestricted free agent and the Steelers have a month to work out new contracts with Faneca and offensive tackle Max Starks. They will attempt to re-sign both players.
"We can't lose the heart of this team," strong safety Troy Polamalu said. "Alan is the heart of this team."
At 31, Faneca can have several more effective seasons as a guard. The Steelers believe Faneca can make a transition to center, if not next season then later in his career.
Team chairman Dan Rooney has always regretted allowing Rod Woodson to leave as a free agent and will do everything possible to keep Faneca, who, like Woodson, was a member of the Steelers' 75th Anniversary team.
Faneca became emotional when talking about how Saturday's game might have been his last with the Steelers. He wants to stay with Pittsburgh and the Steelers want to make it happen.
With the Steelers expected to be $18 million under next year's salary cap, they will have the means to get deals done with Faneca and Starks, though working out an extension with Roethlisberger also will be an offseason priority.
By re-signing Faneca and Starks, the Steelers won't be forced to select two offensive linemen early in the draft. They could instead select one lineman, play Faneca or Kendall Simmons at center - where Mahan was a flop - and move right tackle Willie Colon to guard. That would allow the Steelers to draft another offensive playmaker - either a wide receiver or running back who can also return kicks - early in the draft.
Outside linebacker Clark Haggans also is an unrestricted free agent, but rookie LaMarr Woodley showed against Jacksonville - two sacks and three pressures - that he's ready to be a force next season.
Having defensive end Aaron Smith and free safety Ryan Clark healthy next season also will help.
The Steelers don't need a total overhaul, just some minor tweaks. They have something about 25 teams don't - a franchise quarterback. And when you have a franchise quarterback, you don't rebuild, you retool.
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org