The Pittsburgh Steelers are a very fortunate football franchise. Constantly contending and a place players want to play, but sometimes in free agency players end up leaving for new venues. It isn’t as if some don’t want to stay, but ultimately they feel they could make more money elsewhere, or the Steelers simply can’t afford to keep them.
With that said, below is a list of players who are set to be Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) next season, and whether I feel they will be back or will be with another team in 2017.
Landry Jones - QB
Jones has been Ben Roethlisberger’s primary backup for the past three seasons, and has proven he is capable of coming into the game and making the plays necessary to win. However, he has never won a start in Roethlisberger’s absence, and has been extremely inconsistent.
Prediction: Pittsburgh allows Jones to test Free Agency, and if he signs elsewhere they roll with Zach Mettenberger. If he doesn’t catch any bites from other teams, bringing him back cheap is an option.
James Harrison - OLB
Harrison told reporters he would like to play two more years, which would make him 40 years-old, and is anyone actually doubting his ability to still play at a high level? His play at 38 has been incredible, and his ability to take care of his body should come into the equation.
Prediction: The Steelers offer Harrison a two-year contract, similar to his current contract, and gives the organization the flexibility of having him play another year, and then letting him go after 2017 if they feel it is the prudent move. Then again, Harrison could retire, again, and make this a moot point.
Shamarko Thomas - SS
There have been few players more disappointing than Shamarko Thomas. Drafted as the heir apparent to Troy Polamalu, Thomas did nothing to prove his worth outside of special teams. To compound these issues, Thomas was often injured in 2016, ending his his eventual placement on injured reserve.
Prediction: Thomas is allowed to explore free agency, and eventually finds a new home elsewhere.
Jarvis Jones - OLB
When I said there were few players more disappointing than Shamarko Thomas, one of those players who could be on the list as “more disappointing” would be Jarvis Jones. Jones never turned into the “sack master” people expected from a first round pick, and the Steelers not picking up his 5th year option was a sign the organization wanted Jones to show them what he had in 2016. How has that gone? He was a healthy inactive for the Week 16 game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Prediction: Jones is allowed to explore free agency, and finds a new home elsewhere.
Lawrence Timmons - ILB
The Steelers paid Timmons a lot of money they owed him in 2016, and Timmons has played his butt off this season. His streak of consecutive games continues, and the Steelers would be wise to reward Timmons for his play.
Prediction: The Steelers offer Timmons a 3-year deal similar to those of William Gay and Ramon Foster to keep him in the black and gold for years to come.
Le’Veon Bell - RB
For those who think the Steelers will let the most dynamic running back in the league, and the Steelers’ top play maker, walk are kidding themselves. Bell will be back, but the question is at what cost.
Prediciton: The Steelers slap the franchise tag on Bell, but not as an answer, but as a band aid to give them more time to hash out a new long term contract. Bell being given the franchise tag will buy the team time, and prevent him from hitting the free agent waters.
DeAngelo Williams - RB
Williams isn’t getting any younger, and a knee injury has sidelined his 2016 season. Williams wants to win a Super Bowl, and he certainly has the chance to do that this year, but if it doesn’t happen will he be back in 2017?
Prediction: Williams is offered a one-year contract, but very well could call it a career and retire.
Cody Wallace - C/G
The man who held down the fort for Maurkice Pouncey in 2015 sprained his knee in prior to the season, and it essentially ended his season with the Steelers. Although he possesses tremendous position flexibility, Wallace could have played his final snap with the Steelers.
Prediction: With B.J. Finney on the team, the Steelers let Wallace search for greener pastures in 2017.
Greg Warren - LS
One of the three players who have two Super Bowl rings from the ‘05 and ‘09 seasons, Warren’s play hasn’t dropped at all in 2016.
Prediction: Steelers give Warren a two or three year deal to keep him in the fold for as long as he can snap a football.
David Johnson - TE
Johnson has come in and been a tremendous player for the Steelers, both as a blocker and the occasional pass catcher. Johnson filled the shoes of Matt Spaeth, as a primary blocker from the tight end position.
Prediction: The Steelers will offer Johnson a contract, but will most likely allow him to also see if there is a better fit for him elsewhere, especially with Jesse James, Xavier Grimble and Ladarius Green all set to return in 2017.
Ricardo Mathews - DE
Mathews has come in and been a ridiculous upgrade over Cam Thomas, although that isn’t saying much. Nonetheless, the Steelers have had to rely on Mathews this year as they have lost both Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt for portions of the season. Without Mathews, the defensive line could have collapsed on more than one occasion.
Prediction: Steelers bring Mathews back to add quality depth along the defensive line. Think of a two or three year contract range.
Markus Wheaton - WR
Wheaton is a tough nut to crack. He never lived up to the hype of being a true No. 2 wide receiver, and a shoulder injury derailed what would have been a contract season. The Steelers could use another wide receiver, especially with Martavis Bryant’s future certainly unknown, but what could they expect from Wheaton?
Prediction: Like Emmanuel Sanders before him, Wheaton will hit the open market, and will likely find a new home for 2017.
Steven Johnson - ILB
Johnson, who surprised many by even making the team, was a great special teams player for the Steelers before a broken ankle prematurely ended his season. Nonetheless, the Steelers could use inside linebacker depth, and quality special teams players.
Prediction: Steelers offer Johnson a “show me” one-year contract at the veteran minimum.