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 sixth story looks at the offensive guards.
PITTSBURGH -- With solid starters Ramon Foster and David DeCastro under contract for two more seasons each, the Steelers are in pretty good shape at guard in that sense. But first-year player Nik Embernate is the only other player under contract, and he will be coming off a bad knee injury suffered during training camp. Bryant Browning and Chris Hubbard, who ended the season on the club's practice squad, signed reserve-future contracts this year.
DeCastro, the club's first-round pick in 2012, came on strong during the second half of last season and should continue to improve with increased experience and strength. He appears to be a star in the making and will receive $1,100,354 this year and $1,030,531 in 2015 with a $325,000 roster bonus. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2016.
Foster has paid huge dividends as an undrafted free agent signing a few years ago and re-signed with the Steelers in free agency last year. He will make $1.65 million this year and $1.85 million in 2015 before become an unrestricted free agent in 2016.
The Steelers really liked Embernate, and he probably would have played this past season if he wasn't injured. He will make just $495,000 this year and $585,000 in 2015 before becoming an unrestricted free agent.
This is an area the Steelers most assuredly will fortify with both rookies and veterans as a possibility. You can never have too many good offensive linemen, especially the way things have gone for the Steelers in recent years, and head coach Mike Tomlin likes guys who can play both guard and tackle. Players who can do that have a better chance to make the team.
And with only Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams and Kelvin Beachum likely returning among the tackles, the guard position has to be fortified even more. Beachum was believed to be a better guard, but he has played pretty well at tackle in two stints there, as a rookie and this past season. Adams and Gilbert have not played guard and probably won't move there.