Steelers holding jersey numbers of free agents

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers withheld the release of a few jersey numbers in wake of their rookie minicamp, starting today and running through this weekend in Pittsburgh.

What's in a number?

Perhaps not much, top to bottom, but it certainly is telling the Steelers did not give out certain numbers to its 2013 Draft Class - which will begin minicamp Friday through Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Tribune-Review reporter Mark Kaboly tweeted a tidbit early Friday about a few jersey numbers that weren't given out to the rookie class.

The jersey numbers of former Steelers and current free agents Doug Legursky (64), Max Starks (78), Charlie Batch (16) and Casey Hampton (98) were not given out as the team recently dispersed numbers to rookies and made some changes among a few veterans on the team.

That likely isn't an accident, but it isn't necessarily revealing either. It may be fair to consider it part of a larger contingency plan. Or it could be no one else wanted those numbers.

The team is relatively shallow at the tackle position, and the market hasn't moved for Starks to this point. He wasn't expected to be an immediate draw early in free agency, but veteran tackles with solid track records like Starks have a better shot than most to find work somewhere. That very well could be back in the only place he's ever played as a pro.

Legursky is a depth-providing back-up center who struggles a bit at guard. Considering the Steelers brought in multiple centers in undrafted free agency, they're clearly trying to find an inexpensive back-up to Maurkice Pouncey, but this weekend's minicamp could go a ways in telling them whether Legursky is needed this season.

Perhaps the biggest question needing to be answered is how the nose tackle position will be held down, with newly minted contract guy Steve McLendon slated as the starter. Back-ups Alameda Ta'amu and Hebron Fangupo have zero game experience between them. It wouldn't be surprising to learn of a need for Big Snack's services at some point.

It's the other way around at quarterback, where Batch's No. 16 sits in waiting. The Steelers signed Bruce Gradkowski this offseason, along with developmental project/training camp arm John Parker Wilson. They drafted Oklahoma QB Landry Jones in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. A team never knows when it might need a veteran quarterback, so it makes sense to keep his number on reserve for the time being.


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