Steve Breaston and his agent to talk with Steelers before end of Combine

Christian Petersen

Reports from the combine are placing the free-agent receiver in talks with the teams front-office at the combine before it concludes. How will it affect the roster?

Alan Robinson is reporting free-agent receiver Steve Breaston and his agent are scheduled to talk with the Pittsburgh Steelers at the scouting combine, before it concludes on Tuesday.

The addition of Breaston has been heavily speculated over the past week, because of his connection to the area. Breaston is a hometown hero from Woodland Hills, plus he has played for Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley when he held the same job with the Arizona Cardinals where Breaston enjoyed the best season of his career, and when Haley was the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs where Breaston signed as a free-agent in 2011 - the season Haley was fired. Breaston could reunite with Haley to commiserate once again as people cast aside by the Chiefs organization.

Knowing the Steelers are already in a difficult cap situation, why would they be entertaining free-agents? Breaston is an experienced receiver and kick returner. With Chris Rainey no longer on the roster and Antonio Brown about to be Pittsburgh's top receiver, they will need someone to assume those duties. Emmanuel Sanders and David Gilreath had a few decent returns in 2012, while Rainey dealt with ribs and Brown nursed a high ankle sprain. Is Breaston really an upgrade over either man? Perhaps as a receiver or due to his experience.

The receiving corps will demand attention this off-season, either in the draft or free-agency. Rookie contracts, unless a first round selection, would demand a contract with cap hits under a million dollars per season. Would the Steelers be able to land Breaston any cheaper? Would the difference in contracts equate the experience he brings with him?

If Brown is the team's top receiver and Mike Wallace is leaving in free-agency, Sanders was expected to be the No. 2 guy. Behind Sanders playing the slot was supposed to be veteran Jerricho Cotchery, who is set to make a million himself this season and will hit the cap for a total of $1.5 million. Breaston has already expressed a desire to play wherever he goes. Is he superior enough to Cotchery to surpass him on the depth chart coming in as a free-agent?

Breaston has other meetings planned for other teams, most notably the rival Cleveland Browns. The Steelers have not officially confirmed any meeting with Breaston or his agent, and even Robinson's report stems from a PFT rumor, so we should take it for what it's worth; but the local ties are undeniable, especially with the additions of "local guys" with Haley and new WR coach Richard Mann. It remains to be seen just how highly the Steelers value his talents.

In his career, Breaston's best two seasons both came under Haley (2008 and 2011). He accumulated 1,006 yards on 77 catches in 2008, and 785 yards on 61 catches in 2011. He had two other seasons of slightly over 700 yards, and two sub-hundred years, most recently in 2012 when he had 74 yards on seven catches. He has a career kick return average of 21.8 yards, and a punt return of 7.9. Will these numbers actually warrant his signing?

In a year which will see more youth than veteran leadership, perhaps Breaston's knowledge of Haley's offense and his veteran wisdom are what make him attractive to the Steelers organization, as they seek to improve on an 8-8 season. If the team does offer him a contract above minimum levels, they may have to release Cotchery to clear enough space to accommodate the addition of Breaston. Cotchery has already demonstrated a Steelers-style toughness, making difficult catches in traffic; are the Steelers wise to trade such a trait for a statistically average player?

If Breaston is valued by the Browns organization, the Steelers are unlikely to get in a bidding war for him. However, it is unknown if Breaston would take less to play with Haley in his hometown. All we do know is he will talk with the team, and he just wants to play.

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