An informed look at the Pittsburgh Steelers' plan for their 21 free agents.

Just showing up is most of the battle and Jim Wexell's been showing up for 21 years. Here's his take on the Steelers' plan for their potential free agents.

The department heads for the Pittsburgh Steelers will soon meet with the Rooneys to formulate a plan for free agency, but we in the media have no reason to wait because we already know everything.

Or some things.

Well, some of us know a few things we've been told about particular players over the last year or so.

Not that one coach's or personnel man's opinion will stand for what comes out of the upcoming meeting, but it makes for informed and educated guesses. So here's my look at how the Steelers will handle their 21-man class of potential free agents:

SS Will Allen -- Coming off a very productive season but will be 34 on opening day. The team can put him on the backburner until they see what else comes their way at the position.

OL Kelvin Beachum -- If you ask anyone in a position of power, they'll tell you Beachum is a definite keeper. But in my opinion, Alejandro Villanueva locked up the starting left tackle position with his stunning improvement down the stretch. Beachum, the previous starter at left tackle, can also play guard, even at 303 pounds, and the coaches love his brains, heart and work ethic. If the medical heads agree (tore left ACL on Oct. 18), I expect the Steelers to make Beachum a priority for the left guard position. It will be up to him whether he wants to play there at a price that should be team-friendly, considering the medical question mark. There's little to no chance the Steelers will ask him to come back as a reserve, and even less chance they'll deem Villanueva a reserve as a healthy player with better size and potential.

CB Antwon Blake -- The Steelers didn't stick by Blake through his growing pains -- and broken hand -- just to let him leave without offering another contract. He's at least a core special-teamer, and possibly even more if they can't find an adequate replacement at cornerback. They'll have to offer him more than a minimum-wage contract, too, because someone else will.

CB Brandon Boykin -- His inability to grasp the defense is the reason, according to coaches, that he didn't play much until midseason. His mental error on third-and-12 against Denver won't help that perception either. While the Steelers aren't about to peg last year's second-round pick, Senquez Golson, as a slot-only corner without giving him a legitimate chance outside upon his return from a year-long stint on IR, coaches realize that the slot is a place where smart, instinctive and small corners usually end up. That will most likely keep their interest in Boykin below the rest of the league's, and Boykin will no doubt chase the better offer instead of fighting for scraps of playing time here again.

OG Ramon Foster -- So much to like about this six-year starting guard, but when I asked two different coaches over the last two seasons whether Beachum is a guy they'll always be looking to replace, the exact answer each time was "No, but Ramon Foster is." Yes, the Steelers want more mobility at left guard, and my belief is they'll look to Beachum first. Foster is the fallback. It's unlikely they'll sign both.

ILB Terence Garvin -- A restricted free agent, the possibility exists that they won't tender Garvin and instead attempt to bring him back at minimum wage and save about $900,000. He's No. 5 in a four-man group with Jordan Zumwalt back in the mix next camp.

CB William Gay -- Coaches say he's easily the smartest defensive back they have. But he's 31 years old and the Steelers aren't going to break their bank account for him, and therein lies the danger because a couple other defensive coordinators out there -- Dick LeBeau and Ray Horton -- know and appreciate Gay and might do just that.

DE Clifton Geathers -- The Steelers liked what they saw out from this massive man last spring, but a week into training camp he could barely move, and with that gray patch of hair the then-27-year-old looked like an old man hobbling around the St. Vincent campus. Miniumum-wage, one-year offer if anything.

Robert Golden -- Might be the first guy they attempt to bring back. At 25, he showed he could play both safety spots, the dime spot in the box, and was the captain of the special teams. His coaches love him and he looked like a guy who can start, and his time may be now.

QB Bruce Gradkowski -- Will have to show there's some life left in an arm that forced him to IR in training camp. Well-liked by players, coaches and media, and since Pittsburgh's his hometown he's more likely to move into coaching or media next season.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey -- Perfect No. 4 receiver because he has the attitude to understand that the No. 5, Sammie Coates, could move past him at any time. Only problem is that DHB showed enough as both a receiver and special-teamer this past season that the Steelers probably can't get away with offering him the one-year, minimum-wage deal he signed last year. Look for the Steelers to up the ante a bit this time around.

TE/FB Will Johnson -- An easy call for me. I bring Johnson back with a cheap two or three-year contract. Versatile, smart and plays a position that's looking at age issues.

G/C Doug Legursky -- Little room with Maurkice Pouncey coming back.

NT/DT Steve McLendon -- I see no signs of wear on the 30-year-old who plays a key position on a line that will be counting on the development of two unheralded youngsters for its depth next season. Has to be a top priority.

WR David Nelson -- Since they kept the 6-5 veteran on IR all season, expect him back.

ILB Sean Spence -- Like Garvin, shouldn't expect much of an offer with the depth at the position. Great attitude and work ethic but if another team makes a decent offer the Steelers probably won't match it.

OT Byron Stingily -- Was signed after Beachum's injury because of a past with position coach Mike Munchak. Remained on the roster even though the Steelers liked the practice squad tackle (Bloomsburg's Matt Feiler) enough to give him a futures contract last week. So I'm assuming Stingily can play a little.

DE/DT Cam Thomas -- Played only 14 snaps in the playoffs. Surely that can be replaced by L.T. Walton or Caushaud Lyons next season.

RB Jordan Todman -- Flashed legitimate quickness in the playoffs and deserves a bonus and multi-year, minimum-wage deal to serve as the No. 4 back, which is needed with DeAngelo Williams turning 33 and coming off a foot injury.

QB Mike Vick -- Tomlin will have to give up on the Chesapeake Bay product whom he's admired for years.

LS Greg Warren -- The ageless long-snapper is one of the best in the business. Keep those one-year deals a-comin'.


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