The Pittsburgh Steelers have 21 players who will be unrestricted free agents when their currents contracts expire March 21, so management has quite a few decisions to make before the roster is set.
Here is a position-by-position look at the current players and what could occur during the upcoming months. This fifth story looks at the offensive tackles.
PITTSBURGH -- This is an interesting position for the Steelers, because they have four players still under contract -- Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams, Kelvin Beachum and Levi Brown -- but still need to upgrade. Veteran Guy Whimper is an unrestricted free agent. Beachum and Whimper also can play guard, but their best games have been as tackles. The Steelers need to beef up this area, but it's unlikely they'll do it via the draft. Well, they probably won't take a tackle in the early rounds, but smart money says they'll take one at some point.
Gilbert and Adams were second-round picks taken in consecutive years, 2011 and 2012, respectively, and the team believes they still have an upside. Gilbert is in the final season of his rookie deal with a base salary at $815,103 this year. He becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2015. Adams has two years remaining with a salary at $712,150 this year and $873,225 in 2015. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2016. Both are playing for future contracts.
The offensive line coach hire is going to be critical, because this area needs work. It's not that they didn't learn a few things from recently fired coach Jack Bicknell Jr., but he probably learned more from the players. Bicknell reportedly was in over his head, inexperienced and unsure of how to coach at this level. It was a bad hire, especially with numerous young offensive linemen in the room, so the next hire has to be a hit out of the park.
Beachum, a seventh-round pick in 2012, also has two years remaining on his rookie deal for $570,000 this year and $660,000 in 2015. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2016. Brown has three years remaining on the contract he signed in 2012. He is scheduled to make $6 million this year and $5 in each of the following two. He is an unrestricted free agent in 2017.
Brown came around just one day between his injury and the day players cleaned out their lockers, and that was at Christmastime. If the Steelers believe he can beat out one of their starting tackles, he could remain. But since he suffered the same injury twice now during his career, it's a long shot. The Steelers could pick a tackle in the draft or bring in another veteran or both.