1. Levi Brown in a Steelers uniform.
"What?!?" I thought I'd grab your attention early. I hope it's obvious that I don't mean to keep him at his current salary, but cut-then-resign would make sense. Todd Haley was the offensive coordinator when the Cardinals drafted Levi 5th overall in 2007, and Kevin Colbert wouldn't have traded a late round pick for him without Haley giving a thumbs up. If Brown is willing to mentor our young linemen and sign for vet-minimum, I say do it.
2. Jason Worilds get a $40M contract... from someone else.
Let's face it, the Steelers will never be major players in free agency. If that's the case, they should be hoarding draft picks like a leprechaun and his gold. If Worilds can get one of the biggest defensive contracts this offseason, that only gives us a better chance at a good compensatory pick in 2015. The Worilds vs Woodley debate has already been beaten to death, and everyone has their own opinion about who is the better option going forward. But one thing is for sure, Worilds can get us a draft pick while we won't get anything in return for Woodley.
3. Steelers sign Dexter McCluster
Another player whom Haley drafted, McCluster was taken by the Chiefs in the 2nd round in 2010. He's a free agent and should come cheaper than Emmanuel Sanders. He'd give us a viable option in the return game not named Antonio Brown, and could contribute as a 4th receiver and 3rd down back.
4. Steelers draft Eric Ebron
Those of you who are already aware that I have a mancrush on Ebron, I apologize for being redundant. But seriously, this guy is a beast. I like to think I have a good eye for talent. When we get down to the middle of the pack I'm not so good at differentiating, but I can spot a stud when I see one. The first round comes down to Ebron and Mosley for me. Both are studs, but I prefer Ebron. The Jimmy Grahams of the world are the future of football, and while I can't put Ebron in that category yet (otherwise he'd be going top 5), he can get there. Athleticism aside, I also see a willingness in the run game from Ebron, and he should get much better there.
5. More Will Johnson!
Look, I know no fullback is ever going to be a major part of any gameplan. But every time we play the Ravens they always give Vonta Leach a carry or a catch that catches us off guard for a first down; and Leach isn't even very good at it, he's just a blocker. We have possibly the most athletic FB in the league and we're not using him. Is one carry and one target per game that much to ask?
This is practical and puts a warm feeling in my heart. These two should retire as Steelers, and the time is right to make that a reality. They currently account for a combined $28.4M of our cap space, and extending them could reduce that number by nearly half. Let's be generous and say 40%, which would save about $11.3M. In other words we could nearly get cap compliant just by doing that.
7. Steelers young cornerstones locked down
Maurkice Pouncey, Cam Heyward, and Cortez Allen are all heading into the final year of their rookie deals. I put them in that order based on priority of who I'd sign first. Pouncey might be cheaper since he's coming off a serious injury, and the Steelers have shown a willingness to sign an injured player to a long term deal (see: Colon, Willie). Then again, that might be a reason not to resign him just yet. The Steelers can add a 5th year to Heyward's rookie deal, but it will cost them about $8.5M, which is a little expensive for a 3-4DE. Allen's situation reminds me of Antonio a couple years ago. He looks like a decent #2 at least, and we could sign him now at that level before he truly shows his upside.
8. The emergence of Robert Golden
Well, yeah, wouldn't we all? But seriously, I've been a fan of Golden's since he came in as an UDFA. The one common denominator that the Steelers' late round gems have in common was that they all played great on special teams. Keisel, Ike, and Harrison all started out on special teams before cracking the starting lineup. Golden was one of the best in the league on special teams last year, and if he emerges as a decent FS that would solve a LOT of problems.
9. A (healthy) preseason win
Ok, so this one isn't as big as the others. But going 0-4 in the preseason last year definitely didn't boost the Steelers' confidence going into the season. It also spoke to the lack of depth we had and when 3 players went on IR in the first game it took half the season to recover.
10. A season sweep of the AFC North
I was going to say a 7th Superbowl victory, but seeing as this is a post about 2014 I'm going with the next best thing. There's nothing like sees the dejected faces of Ravens, Bengals, and to a lesser extent Browns fans (they try so hard... it's almost not even fair). Not to mention, an AFCN sweep all but guarantees us a division crown and a home playoff game or two.
So, what would YOU like to see in the coming months??