32. David Johnson, TE – A restricted free agent, Johnson will receive the low tender. He can block a bit, and he's improved as a fullback, but his poor hands make that almost moot. The Steelers could throw a reserve guard out there who can block better and catch as poorly.
33. Elisha Joseph, NT – I asked one coach about Joseph when the team re-signed him. I thought that maybe since they've brought him back that he's a quality prospect for the future. Instead, the answer was, "We already let him go once." Told me what I needed to know.
34. Jeremy Kapinos, P – Would make $700,000; or a little bit more than a minimum-wage contract for Daniel Sepulveda. Kapinos be 28 in September; same as Sepulveda. Difference between the two: Sepulveda provides 3.0 more yards per punt (net), but has had four knee surgeries in six years. A plus for Kapinos: In 10 playoff games his net is 38.9, or just above his career net average of 38.3, so the pressure hasn't bothered him.
35. Brett Keisel, DE – At age 33 Keisel peaked as a football player with a team-leading and career-high 36 quarterback pressures (runner-up Ziggy Hood had 21). He was tied for third with 3 sacks and surprisingly finished fourth on the team with a career-high 9 passes defensed. Yes, he had a few more sacks in 2006, and, yes, he had more tackles in three other seasons, and, yes, he made the Pro Bowl after the 2010 season, but never has his mix of on-field play and off-field leadership meshed so perfectly as it did this past season. The groin injury he struggled with late in the season, and then tweaked later in the playoff game, is a concern at his age. But Keisel will be given every benefit of any doubt after such a strong season.
36. Chris Kemoeatu, OG – Prime candidate for the March 13 chopping board. Steelers were 7-1 in games in which he didn't start last season (only loss in San Francisco). The team would save $2.4 million by cutting him. The inconsistencies haven't abated, so it's time to go. The team will miss his power pulling and ability to throw his 350 pounds around, but not his pass blocking and penalties. Started two Super Bowls (1-1) and was inactive in Detroit. One of 15 on 53-man roster for all three Super Bowls.
37. Byron Leftwich, QB – Since returning in 2010, has played in only one game (mop-up in Cleveland) out of a possible 36, but remains one of the most popular leaders in the locker room and the primary backup behind Ben Roethlisberger. Leftwich broke his arm in a preseason game and went on injured reserve before the season, but should return as a free agent unless the 10th-year minimum of $925,000 can't fit. Just in case, the Steelers are picking up QBs off the street.
38. Doug Legursky, C-G – The likely beneficiary of Kemoeatu's probable release, Legursky started five games at LG, three at RG and two at C, and the Steelers were 8-2 in those games. As a restricted free agent, Legursky could possibly get away with the original-round compensation tender to save $667,000. Legursky was not drafted, so there would be risk involved with such an offer.
39. Keenan Lewis, CB – Really took to Carnell Lake's coaching and grew into his potential in his third season. With Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen, the Steelers now have three working cornerbacks at least 6-0 tall and physical. It's their prototype at the position. If Will Gay leaves in free agency, as I expect, Lewis will contend for the starting LCB job. Because he was a third-round pick, the Steelers can get away with offering him the low tender in restricted free agency.
40. Anthony Madison, CB – Kept himself in shape and was ready when injury-plagued Steelers called him for gunner duty in the postseason. An unrestricted free agent once again, Madison would need a similar roadmap in 2012.
41. John Malecki, C-G – Provided emergency interior depth from the practice squad at a position where two players – Legursky and Maurkice Pouncey – couldn't shake off injuries in 2011. Malecki made the practice squad out of camp but was released Oct. 6 and was on the street for a couple of months before re-signing with the Steelers. Expected influx of interior OL rookies would hurt his chances of sticking in 2012.
42. Jamie McCoy, TE – Here's a player who'll have a better chance to make the team under a new offensive coordinator. McCoy is built more like a fullback, better labeled an H-back. But in Bruce Arians' scheme, that meant he wouldn't actually play. McCoy spent the year on the practice squad, but with fullbacks a possibility once again McCoy could make more money in 2012.
43. Bryant McFadden, CB – Great mentor for the young CBs, but the Steelers will save $2.5 million by releasing him. Class act. One of a dozen who played for the Steelers in all three of their recent Super Bowls.
44. Steve McLendon, DT – Wish the Steelers would update this guy's weight. They still list him at 280, his 2009 rookie weight, but before making his first career start in 2011 he said he was close to 320. Teammates rave about his strength and work ethic in the weight room. Played 49 percent as many snaps as Casey Hampton did, and then played 47 snaps in the playoff game after Hampton left with an early injury. The 6-foot-4 McLendon's not built like the prototypical nose tackle, but the second-year player elicits intrigue with his playmaking potential.
45. Rashard Mendenhall, RB – Because of an assortment of bonuses, Mendenhall will cost the Steelers about $2.3 million this season. Even though he's rehabbing a torn ACL, Mendenhall shouldn't be in any danger of being cut since the Steelers should be able to fit the cap with him in tow.
46. Jamon Meredith, OL – I remembered this guy running a great 40 at the 2009 combine and so I wanted to look that up, plus something else about him in my Pro Football Weekly book. I found both. Meredith, at 304 pounds, was clocked at 4.92 on "some watches." On the negative side, Nolan Nawrocki called him a "locker-room lawyer." I believe both. Even though Meredith had lost his LT job as a senior at South Carolina, and moved to LG, Meredith was drafted in the fifth round by the Packers and has since played for four other teams. That's five teams in three years, so I wasn't the only one intrigued by his size/speed ratio. Meredith played in four games in 2011, according to the Steelers, and in two of those games he was an OL reserve. OK, on to my other point. With the Steelers, Meredith lockered between LaMarr Woodley and Weslye Saunders, and smirked and commented and shook his head over just about all of my stupid questions all year long to those other players. You get young guys like this every now and then. Chad Scott was famous for butting into interviews with other people, and then clamming up in his interviews. And he had a lot more cache as a first-round pick than Meredith. But these kids try too hard to impress the veterans around them by sneering at the media. So, OK, we get it. Reporters are dweebs. Woodley knows this, but he doesn't show it because there's a professional game that we all have to play. Locker-room lawyers usually don't stick around long enough to understand that game. Meredith's a restricted free agent who most likely will not receive a tender. If the Steelers want this athletic G/T back, they'll get him cheaply.
47. Heath Miller, TE – Pro Football Focus is a web site that hires people – not scouts or coaches – to grade every single play on tape. They don't claim to be geniuses; but they're not ignoramuses. I bring this up because of Miller's position and how too much is made there of pass-catching skills, and not blocking. So I dialed up PFF for their tight end rankings and they had Miller fifth in 2011 behind Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez and Aaron Hernandez. That's third in the AFC, and within tenths of Hernandez. It made perfect sense to me because I thought Miller could easily have been named to the Pro Bowl this season, a season in which he moved within 22 catches of becoming the franchise's third all-time leading receiver. And we – along with Pro Football Focus – know how well he blocks.
48. Mewelde Moore, RB – He'll turn 30 in July and showed no signs of slowing down. Would be worth the vet's minimum $540,000 to re-sign if he receives no other offers in free agency.
49. Ryan Mundy, S – He had such a good playoff game going until the end, when he blitzed out of the inverted cover two instead of just moving up and purveying the run alley. He and Ike Taylor got burned in a one-man route and the team was eliminated. It's doubtful Mundy will pay the ultimate price. He's a restricted free agent who'll likely be offered the low tender. He came into the league as a sixth-round pick.