clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Analyzing Steelers free agents in 2017, and potential replacements for those players (Offensive Edition)

A large number of players in the black and gold have contracts that expire in 2017 for the Steelers. On the occasion that Pittsburgh can't, or doesn't want to, renew them, can free agency provide any solutions?

The recent talk over Le'Veon Bell's contract has caused some concern with Pittsburgh Steelers fans. What if Pittsburgh can't retain him? Who could Pittsburgh sign to fill that gap? What about DeAngelo Williams? Once you take a look at the high number of contracts that are up for renewal in 2017, alongside Bell's, this becomes a deeper issue - running back is not the only position where attention is needed.

To this end, I have compiled a list of every offensive player who is up for renewal at the end of next season, and possible free agents that could help lessen the damage. I've excluded any players that could be drafted, because the last draft wasn't that long ago and its a little early to start speculating next year's draft before this season has even kicked off. I don't necessarily feel like any of these players are bound to leave, but its worth noting who Pittsburgh could target if the worst happens.


Contracts that expire:
  • David DeCastro, 26, current contract cost - $7,813,898
  • Chris Hubbard, 25, current contract cost - $600,000
  • Cole Manhart, 23, current contract cost - $450,000
  • Ramon Foster, 30
  • B.J. Finney, 24
This situation is not the best, but by far not the worst on this list. Hubbard and Manhart are not going to be the biggest priority here. DeCastro's contract, although hefty, I feel is necessary to provide Big Ben cover. If he leaves, there is a big gap in the line, but also a big amount of money to play with. Looking at what that could buy the Steelers, you're looking somewhere in the range of Kevin Zeitler (26) of the Bengals or Larry Warford (25) of the Lions.


Contracts that expire:
  • Cody Wallace,  31, current contract cost - $3,480,000
  • Maurkice Pouncey, 26
  • Quinton Schooley, 22

This is similar to the situation at guard. Wallace is the only center who is up for renewal, and take up a fair bit of cap space. On the one hand, the more youthful Pouncey is still on the roster, on the other, that just leaves Schooley, a rookie. Therefore, if Wallace walks, then Pittsburgh will have to sign someone new. The type of money that would be freed up would afford a player like Joe Hawley (27) from Tampa Bay or Brian Schwenke (25) from Tennessee.


Contracts that expire:
  • Alejandro Villanueva, 27, current contract cost - $960,000
  • Matt Feiler, 23, current contract cost - $450,000
  • Marcus Gilbert, 28
  • Ryan Harris, 31
  • Jerald Hawkins, 22
  • Brian Mihalik, 23
Feiler has no experience on the NFL field, so I don't think the Steelers will lose too much sleep over him. Villanueva on the other hand is not only a bargain, but has put up a valiant effort over the last season. I think that the Steelers will struggle to get someone of his quality with that price tag. Looking at that price, Jarred Pughsley (25) from Kansas City would cost about the same. However, he has only two games experience and no game starts, so I really hope that Villanueva hangs around.

Tight End

Contracts that expire:
  • Matt Spaeth, 32, current contract cost - $2,200,000
  • David Johnson, 28, current contract cost - $760,000
  • Xavier Grimble, 23, current contract cost - $450,000
  • Ladarius Green, 26
  • Jesse James, 22
  • Paul Lang, 24
This I have mixed feelings about. Ladarius Green was clearly signed to fill the gap left by Heath Miller, and Jesse James showed that he can play well this season (all things considered). However, I also feel that James will ask for more money, and Spaeth will retire at his contract's end. That means that, if needed, there's not too much money left to play with. Regardless, when matching up the cap space freed by Spaeth, the money could be used to bring in Larry Donnell (27) from the Giants or Anthony Denham (24) from the Texans when looking purely at money. I doubt this will happen, I think the remaining three tight ends are pretty good and that the money will be used elsewhere, but if Pittsburgh were to sign another tight end, these two would be what the money could buy.

Wide Receivers

Contracts that expire:
  • Markus Wheaton, 25, current contract cost - $2,811,376
  • Levi Norwood, 24, current contract cost - $450,000
  • Isaac Blakeney, 23, current contract cost - $450,000
  • Shakim Phillips, 24, current contract cost - $450,000
  • Demarcus Ayers, 21
  • Antonio Brown, 27
  • Martavis Bryant, 24
  • Sammie Coates, 23
  • Darrius Heyward-Bey, 29
  • Eli Rogers, 23
  • Canaan Severin, 23
  • Marcus Tucker, 23
We all know the depth that Pittsburgh has at receiver. Not including Bryant, there are three receivers on the remaining list that I would be happy for Pittsburgh to start straight away - Brown, Coates and Heyward-Bey. I think that Wheaton is important to the team, but it wouldn't hurt too much to see him go. That, and $2.8 million can bag someone like Kamar Aiken (27) from Baltimore or Brandon LaFell (29) from Cincinnati. I think either of those players could fill in Wheaton's role, but again, losing him and just taking the cap space for somewhere else wouldn't be inconceivable.


Contracts that expire:
  • Roosevelt Nix, 24, current contract cost - $525,000
Pittsburgh has one fullback on the roster. I don't think they value the position that highly. Nix leaving would free up over half a million dollars for cap room, and again, if that were to happen, I don't think that would be the end of the world. If he were to walk, and Pittsburgh were out to get someone else, that money could be spent on someone like Joey Iosefa (25) from the Patriots.


Contracts that expire:
  • Le'Veon Bell, 26, current contract cost - $4,120,600
  • DeAngelo Williams, 33, current contract cost - $4,000,000
  • Fitzgerald Toussaint, 26, current contract cost - $1,100,000
  • Daryl Richardson, 26, current contract cost - $600,000
  • Brandon Brown-Dukes, 26
  • Cameron Stingily, 24
This worries me. I don't think Bell will go. BUT, what happens if he does? Further to that, I do think Williams will go. What does that do to backup? I'm not sure. On the possibility that Bell does go (which would be awful), players that would hit free agency that could be afforded with Bell's salary alone would be Andre Ellington (27) from the Cardinals or Eddie Lacy (26) from Green Bay. That still raises the question of a backup. Knile Davis (24) from Kansas City might be a good fit, but is a player like him going to be that interested in a backup position? Finally third string - the $1,100,000 from Toussaint's contract frees further cap room, and the only player I think would be worth anything near that would be Isaiah Pead (26) from Miami. Regardless, I can be sure that Williams will go and I'm almost certain Bell will stay. I hope it doesn't come to shopping for a new running back for a long time.


Contracts that expire:
  • Landry Jones, 27, current contract cost - $2,599,220
  • Bruce Gradkowski, 33, current contract cost - $965,000
  • Dustin Vaughan, 25, current contract cost - $525,000
  • Ben Roethlisberger, 34
This outright scares me. Literally every quarterback on the roster, except Big Ben, is hitting free agency come 2017 if there are no negotiations made between now and then. I see a resigning of Jones, which after this season is welcome, but I also see Gradkowski retiring. I don't think that there are many quarterbacks around that could fill Gradkowski's position for the cap space he would free up. If Jones walks, then we could see the signing of a player of the value similar to Ryan Nassib (26) from the Giants, or Sean Renfree (26) from the Falcons. I would hope, on the other hand, that if there is any cap space, that they would invest it here.

All in all, there are a lot of contracts up for renewal this coming season. A number of offensive positions are at danger of losing a many players. Some could lose nearly all of their depth, others star players. At no point am I suggesting that Pittsburgh picks up the players I have suggested, they're there to offer a player to show what the type of money available could be used for. Of course, the front office of Pittsburgh have plans already in place for these possibilities, and it would foolish to think that they wouldn't shift funds around to bag better players at positions of need.

Further to that, it would also be foolish to think that the front office hasn't thought over who with, when and if their negotiations are to take place. What I can say is, there are players on this list that would be great to see re-sign, some who would be met with indifference if they do or don't, and a couple of free agents I have mentioned who could actually help the team out.