Update: With the Steelers having been given a safety in one of the early post-Combine mock drafts, we thought it'd be worth our time to look back on the roster projections for the safety position, arguably the position with the most anticipated activity this offseason.
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 13th story looks at the safeties.
PITTSBURGH -- There are two unrestricted free-agent safeties who played for the Steelers last season, Ryan Clark and Will Allen, and a prevailing theory is that Clark will not be re-signed while Allen should return.
Clark will be 35 during the 2014 NFL season, has had more than 100 tackles during the past three seasons and has missed just four games in the past six. But some believe he is expendable, while Allen -- who returned to the club last year after five games and two starts with the Dallas Cowboys -- will be 32 for training camp. He's been a solid backup and special teams player since signing with the Steelers in 2010 after six years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Allen would have to make at least $1 million as a veteran with more than 10 seasons in the league, but that would still be inexpensive compared to what Clark would want. And he also would want to remain a starter. With the up-side apparent for Shamarko Thomas, Clark's days likely are numbered, while Allen should return. And Thomas' future appears to be bright.
Thomas is among five safeties under contract for the spring, and he has three years remaining on his rookie deal. He is scheduled to make $495,000 this year, $585,000 in 2015 and $675,000 in the final year before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2017. Thomas missed just two games last year and had two starts. He will be expected to move into a starting role this year.
Among the other players under contract is Robert Golden, who has just one year remaining at $570,000 this year. Golden missed just one game the past two seasons for the Steelers and was fixture on the special teams. That role should continue this year, but his future is not certain.
Veteran Troy Polamalu also has just one year remaining on his recent contract with a base salary at $8.25 million this year with a cap hit at about $11 million. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2015, but Steelers president Art Rooney II said this week during a conference call with season-ticket holders that the Steelers would like to see Polamalu retire with the club that selected him in the first round during the 2003 NFL Draft.
"We would very much love to have Troy retire as a Steeler and expect that he will,'' Rooney said. "He's obviously been one of the great Steelers of all time.''
Many believe Polamalu is injury prone, but there were only two seasons -- 2009 (11 games) and 2012 (nine) -- where he missed many games. Polamalu missed just 10 games combined during his other nine NFL seasons, and he played in all 16 last year at a high level. With a young free safety like Thomas replacing Clark, that could help Polamalu and extend his career past this season.
- Steelers Roster Projections: Cornerbacks
- Steelers Roster Projections: Outside linebackers
- Steelers Roster Projections: Inside linebackers
- Steelers 2014 Roster Projections: Defensive ends
- Steelers 2014 Roster Projections: Nose tackles
- 2014 Steelers Roster Projections: Centers
- 2014 Steelers Roster Projections: Offensive guards
- Steelers 2014 roster projections: Offensive tackle
- Steelers 2014 Roster Projections: Tight ends
- Steelers 2014 roster projections: Wide receivers
- Steelers 2014 Roster Projections: Running backs
- Steelers Roster Projections: Quarterbacks