The Pittsburgh Steelers head into the offseason with several big decisions ahead of them as far as free agency and personnel goes. In total they will have 17 unrestricted free agents , 5 restricted free agents and 2 exclusive rights free agents.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis and guard Ramon Foster will likely be considered the Steelers two highest priority unrestricted free agents heading into the offseason. Lewis had a fantastic break out season and led the league in pass breakups heading into the final regular season game. When you look at the list of cornerbacks around the league that will be unrestricted you will see that Lewis could garner some serious attention if not locked up prior to the start of the free agency signing period.
Foster was one of the Steelers most consistent offensive linemen all season and nearly played every offensive snap in addition. He played both guard spots and right tackle in 2012 and showed that he was more than capable enough at all three. Should the Steelers decide to part ways with Willie Colon, the chances of locking up Foster will increase.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace and running back Rashard Mendenhall are expected to test free agency and neither are expected to be hit with the franchise tag. The chances of either being back in 2013 is almost non existent at this point.
Several of the older unrestricted free agents that stated games in 2012 such as linebacker Larry Foote, nose tackle Casey Hampton, tackle Max Starks, quarterback Charlie Batch and quarterback Byron Leftwich will all be allowed to shop themselves during the offseason. The only way that Foote, Hampton and Starks are back in 2012 would be if they agree to one-year deals for roughly the veteran minimum. Basically, qualifying contracts that come with reduced salary cap hits. Those types of resignings usually take place in June or July so it will be a long wait. There is a good chance that either Batch or Leftwich return next season, but not both.
Bit players such as Doug Legursky and Will Allen are not expected to receive much if any attention in the early part of free agency. The only way that both return in 2013 would be on one year deals for the minimum with no guarantees that they will make the 2013 53 man roster.
The Steelers are expected to tender all five of their restricted free agents with original round low tenders that will be right around $1.3 million. All five should be easily retained and the Steelers will have an opportunity to match any offer sheet should any of them sign one.
The two exclusive right free agents will be back as well as they must except the one year minimum salary offered them if they want to play in 2013.
We will break each player down more in depth as we progress through the offseason, but below is your official list of Steelers free agents.
Steelers 2013 Unrestricted Free Agents
WR Mike Wallace
RB Rashard Mendenhall
CB Keenan Lewis
G Ramon Foster
T Max Starks
ILB Larry Foote
NT Casey Hampton
S Will Allen
G Doug Legursky
WR Plaxico Burress
QB Charlie Batch
QB Byron Leftwich
LS Greg Warren
FS Ryan Mundy
LB Brandon Johnson
TE Leonard Pope
CB Justin King
NOTE: The Steelers list both David Johnson and Jeremy Kapinos as FA\'s as well. Johnson as a URFA & Kapinos a RFA. Both were waived injured prior to the start of the season.
Steelers 2013 Restricted Free Agents
WR Emmanuel Sanders
NT Steve McLendon
RB Jonathan Dwyer
RB Isaac Redman
LB Stevenson Sylvester
Steelers 2013 Exclusive Rights Free Agents
RB Baron Batch
CB DeMarcus Van Dyke