The Steelers have a few players who become free agents in 2016, who do they keep and who do they let go?
So the Steelers are done with 2015 and moving on to 2016. The immediate task, the one for which the Steelers have the most knowledge and ability to make an informed decision on at this point is what players they keep. Not coincidentally that is also where we’re at as fans too.
The following is a list of the coming free agents. For the sake of space this is only the unrestricted free agents, which is most of the free agents anyway. We’ll think it over. We’ll take a look at our hand. And we’ll decide, in poker parlance, to hold or fold.
Ok Kenny Rogers, deal’em
Steve McLendon – The big fella doesn’t get a lot of stats but over the past couple years he’s went from a stopgap to gaining some weight and skill and turning into an adequate starter. He’s anchoring the middle on the 6th ranked defense in the league. He’s not a big hit on the cap and won’t ask for much more with a new contract. And big Daniel McCullers is probably not ready for full time yet.
Cam Thomas – He played a little better this year. He wasn’t an all-star but not a glaring weakness. He’s a versatile player. But his time is up in Pittsburgh. The emergence of Stephon Tuitt makes this even more so.
Ramon Foster – Foster has quietly been a steady presence on the Steelers line for half a decade. He came on as an undrafted free agent and has helped this line turn from terrible into great over that span. Many think of Pouncey as the original piece of the Steelers O-line resurgence, but Foster was there first. He won’t be expensive and there’s not an obvious replacement yet.
William Gay – This is a tough one. The legend of William Gay has seen this focus of Steeler fan rage turn into a reliable veteran and the most consistent and reliable player in the Steelers secondary. He’s also a pick six machine. He’s old though, it’s time to go.
But the Steelers secondary is in a state, has been for years, no end in sight. Maybe I’m being sentimental, and it’s early enough to put off hard decisions. So for now I say, for a couple years, at a bargain…
Kelvin Beachum – Oh Kelvin. Kelvin, Kelvin, Kelvin. Talk about bad luck. Guy comes in as a seventh round pick. He plays every backup spot on the o-line, a real scrapper. Beachum settles in at left tackle. He’s small though and most see it as an awkward temporary solution. But he turns out great at it. Brown, Bell, you see some Steelers catch this work bug and Beachum caught it. He worked crazy hard and became great.
Then he hurt his knee and Villanueva came in and the line didn’t miss a beat. This was the contract year too. He’s been on his rookie contract. Per dollar, best lineman in the biz. He may get his pay day, but not from the Steelers. Villanueva is good enough and way cheaper.
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Robert Golden – He’s a great special teams player, the captain in fact. He’s an adequate player at safety and saw the most action of his career there this year and did better than many expected. He doesn’t cost much. Might as well keep’em.
Antwon Blake – Ups and downs for this guy. Blake makes big plays. He also gives up big plays. Many a fan feels the scale tips toward the latter, giving them up. Regardless, the coaches like Blake and he’s not that bad, and he doesn’t cost much, and with the secondary like it is they’ll probably keep him. But I say …
Will Allen – Another tough call in the secondary. Allen has been a steady Steeler for years, minus a couple, but he’s been a reliable sight backing up at safety. He did pretty well starting this year. That being said, age is catching up with Allen. He served us well but particularly toward the end of the season the wear seemed to be impacting his play occasionally. He’ll be missed but it’s time. With a heavy heart …
Will Johnson – Johnson finds himself in a similar position as Beachum. He’s been reliable for years. He’s a steady and important piece of the puzzle who does his job and doesn’t ask for attention. But some kid came out of nowhere and probably too his job. That kid in Johnson’s case is Roosevelt Nix. Those blocks and clutch catches will be missed but time to go our separate ways.
Mike Adams – …
Darrius Heyward-Bey – Heyward-Bey was a pleasant surprise for many Steelers fans. Let’s appreciate the guy Hey-Bey is. He’s drafted with the 7th pick and his stature in the league falls every year until he signs to the Steelers for the veteran minimum to play mostly special teams and catch maybe a dozen passes per year.
He does not need the money guys. Hey-Bey’s got to love the game and he’s got to have no ego. Look in the periphery of any big Steelers play and you’ll probably see Hey-Bey throwing a block. He’s a scrapper, and he’s cheap.
Sean Spence – This is probably the hardest one to judge because it’s tough to know what the market will be for Spence. Inside linebackers are not as sought after as outside at the moment but athletic ones are the trendy type and Spence is that. He’s proven capable of starting.
The Steelers have a lot of ILB depth though, and they really stuck by Spence during a tough stretch. For that I might anticipate (hope for?) a home town discount.
Bruce Gradkowski – He won’t cost anything and Jones isn’t the answer. What other choice is there? The Steelers will probably look for someone early though in free agency and put the Gradkowski/Jones era of backup behind them, regardless of whether this is the one of the pair Steelers fans would have preferred.
Brandon Boykin – He came on pretty good at the end there. I’d like to keep him. But I don’t think he feels that way. The Steelers took too long to play him. It really seemed very awkward. People kept asking about it. Coaches gave vague non-answers and Boykin flat out said he didn’t know.
Maybe they were gaming the conditions of the trade to keep a higher draft pick. But don’t trade for the guy in the first place then, because he’s gone.
Fold’em, player’s choice
Greg Warren – Oh ya, good old Greg Warren still snapping long. If it’s not broke …
Doug Legursky – Thanks for the occasional help but once again we will not be needing your services. Later big guy.
Jordan Todman – Do we need to sign him? Probably not. But he’ll cost nothing, Williams won’t be around forever, and we can still put him on the practice squad.
Michael Vick – Thanks for stopping by.
Onward to offseason