March 9th marks the official start of the new NFL league year and the Steelers will find themselves very busy with their own free agents and possibly signing a few from other teams as well. The black and gold have already had a busy off-season having extended Antonio Brown for four additional years, with a massive contract, giving LeVeon Bell the franchise tag and re-signing linebacker James Harrison for two more years.
It’s expected Bell will be signed to a long term deal this off- season but what about the remaining unrestricted free agents?
Let’s take a look:
LB Lawrence Timmons – Timmons who was the very first player ever drafted in the Mike Tomlin era; finds himself a free agent for the very first time in his career. He had a down 2015 but a nice bounce back 2016. He proved he still has some gas in the tank and I think he’ll be given a two or three year contract to return. He fits well into Keith Butler’s system and he’s very familiar with the team and the city. At his age, he probably doesn’t want to start over.
LB Jarvis Jones-Jones never really panned out in Pittsburgh. The former first round pick failed to live up to expectations and it’s best for both the team and Jones if he doesn’t return. I don’t think he’ll be given a deal and he’ll end up elsewhere as an extra linebacker.
QB Landry Jones-Unlike most fans of the team, I like Landry Jones as the Steelers backup and so do the Steelers. He knows the system, he can play decently if called upon (yes I think he can) and honestly how many BACKUP quarterbacks are better than him? I think he’ll get a 4 year deal to stay and he’ll take it.
RB DeAngelo Williams – Williams has been a very solid backup to LeVeon Bell over the past two seasons. He’s a good leader and a great example in the locker room. I think it would be very wise of the Steelers to give him another two year deal and I think he’d gladly take it. That said, I believe the black and gold plan to find Bell’s backup in the draft and won’t give Williams an opportunity to return.
OL Cody Wallace – Wallace has always been a serviceable backup for the black and gold and I could see giving him a one year deal to come back and I think there’s a chance that could happen but my feeling is if the Steelers do bring Wallace back, it won’t be until after the draft. They’ll look to get younger at the position first and would prefer to develop a guy on a cheaper salary.
DE Ricardo Mathews – He’s gone. No interest in bringing him back.
TE David Johnson – The Steelers feel they need a tight end but Johnson isn’t that guy. Even with a lot of questions around Ladarius Green playing again and Jesse James as a big play guy, the return of Johnson is unlikely. I don’t think it makes sense to bring him back.
WR Markus Wheaton – The team needs more wide receiver depth but they’re moving on from Wheaton. He was part of that 2013 draft with Jarvis Jones, and much like Jones, he didn’t live up to expectations. It’s time to move on from him and develop the guys they currently have on the roster.
S Shamarko Thomas – Another bust from the 2013 draft, Thomas was supposed to be the guy to replace Troy Polamalu. Clearly that never panned out. He has no future in the secondary with the black and gold but they do like him on special teams. So much so that I think they may offer him two years. I think they should cut bait and move on from him. He never turned into the guy they traded up to get and to me; his special teams play isn’t worth bringing him back.
Time will tell who comes back and who moves on but it will be an exciting few weeks in Pittsburgh as the team prepares their roster for another run at Lombardi number seven.
Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association http://www.steelnationassociation.com– Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.