When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed free agent running back DeAngelo Williams last offseason as a backup, it wasn’t viewed as a particularly big move, especially when compared with some of the other signings around the league. But with Le'Veon Bell playing in only a handful of games, Williams became a critical part of the Steelers’ offense, leading the AFC in rushing touchdowns.
Is there another DeAngelo Williams out there again this offseason for the Steelers?
Quite possibly. In fact, unlike last season, when the Steelers had virtually their entire offense set to return, the team could have some holes to fill on that side of the ball this offseason as left tackle Kelvin Beachum, guard Ramon Foster, backup quarterbacks Michael Vick and Bruce Gradkowski and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, among others, are all set to reach free agency when the period begins March 7.
Here are some of the offensive players the Steelers are examining for free agency:
Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville: The 30-year-old has 53 career starts, and, while he’s never been great, he hasn’t had a lot around him. On the plus side, his career completion percentage is nearly 60 percent and if forced into action, he most certainly could do well playing with Pittsburgh’s weapons. Henne certainly could challenge Landry Jones for the No. 2 job and could likely be had for pretty close to the league minimum. He also has a big arm to take advantage of the Steelers’ speed on the outside.
Matt Moore, QB, Miami: Has made 25 career starts in his time as a backup in Carolina and Miami. He’s thrown just 30 passes in the past four seasons, but was effective for Miami in 2011, throwing 16 touchdown passes and nine interceptions on 347 attempts while going 6-6. Again, Moore, at 31, could push Jones for the No. 2 job.
Jahri Evans, G, New Orleans: Was once a perennial Pro Bowl player and the highest-paid guard in the NFL. The Philadelphia native and Bloomsburg University graduate is now 32 and, with the money he’s made, could be looking to make one last Super Bowl run. He hasn’t missed a start in eight of his 10 NFL seasons, though he has missed seven starts in the past three seasons, including five in 2015. A change of scenery could do him good and he could be a solid short-term replacement for Foster. The other thing that makes Evans attractive is that he was released by the Saints. He wouldn’t factor into any potential compensatory picks.
Chris Chester, G, Atlanta: At 33, Chester’s best days are behind him, but he’s a solid run blocker and hasn’t missed a start in the past five seasons. A one-year deal would make sense here for a guy who could be looking to take one last shot at a Super Bowl.
Will Beatty, OT, N.Y. Giants: The 30-year-old Beatty started all 32 games for the Giants at left tackle in 2013 and 2014, but he’s coming off a torn pectoral injury that ruined his 2015 season and led to his release by the Giants in a money-saving deal. Beatty’s a solid run blocker and could be looking for a prove-it deal after cashing in with the Giants and then getting injured.
Donald Stephenson, OL, Kansas City: The 27-year-old Stephenson has been the swing tackle in Kansas City the past four seasons, making 21 starts. He started the first five games of the season at left tackle for Kansas City in 2015 and also played some guard. Stephenson is a better run blocker than he is a pass blocker, which could make a permanent move to guard more attractive.
Marc Mariani, WR/KR, Bears: If Heyward-Bey gets an offer elsewhere, the Steelers have an opening for a veteran receiver, particularly one who can return punts to get Antonio Brown out of those duties. We saw what the offense looked like in Denver without Brown on the field. After some injuries, Mariani has rebounded the past two seasons and is the kind of jack-of-all-trades you need as a No. 4 or 5 receiver.