For those who have forgotten, here's a quick refresher: OT Adam Meadows, OLB Bertrand Berry, TE Erron Kinney and RB Dominic Rhodes.
They won't exactly be hot names on the free agent market, but
the Steelers have never exactly been big players in the free agent
game. And given their current salary cap situation, they don't
figure to be big rollers again this year.
But that doesn't mean they can't be smart spenders.
In addition to quality bargains like Meadows, Berry, Kinney and
Rhodes, there are a number of other players available who could
help the Steelers out a great deal in 2004.
Indianapolis offensive tackle Ryan Diem pushed Meadows to
guard in 2003, but is a restricted free agent. Indianapolis has yet
to tender him an offer, but it's doubtful they wouldn't at least
a low-end tender. That means if the Colts chose not to match an
offer for Diem - which would likely have to be in the $3 million per
season range - it would also cost a fourth round pick.
And certainly a veteran running back such as Duce Staley or
Garrison Hearst could come in and team with Jerome Bettis in
2004 to provide the Steelers with a better running game than
what they had in 2003.
But bringing in a second running back who is near the end of his
career would only delay the team's inevitable need to acquire a
feature running back for the future. Staley or Hearst would only
be short-term solutions, though they would allow the team to
select a quarterback in the first round of the draft.
Clark Haggans remains the team's No. 1 target in free agency
despite his conviction in Colorado last month on charges
stemming from a drunk driving incident. That was seen as an
isolated incident for Haggans, the Steelers special teams
captain last season.
Perhaps it's because there's a comfort level there between the
coaching staff and Haggans, or perhaps its because the
Steelers feel Haggans is finally ready to break out, but he is the
player they have targeted to challenge 2003 second round pick
Alonzo Jackson for Jason Gildon's outside linebacker position.
The Steelers would also like to retain the services of fullback
Dan Kreider and safety Mike Logan, but aren't going to go
overboard with offers for the duo.
With an offense not centered around Bettis, the need for a
fullback isn't as great as it was in previous years. And fullback
just isn't a position that teams spend a great deal of money on
Logan, meanwhile, will be replaced at strong safety by Troy Polamalu in 2004, but could be brought back to battle Chris Hope and Brent Alexander for the starting free safety spot.
While it's doubtful cornerback will be a position the Steelers will
chase in free agency, if they do, Buffalo cornerback Antoine Winfield will be at the top of their list.
Though Winfield is just 5-9, he is as tough a coverage
cornerback as there is in the NFL. He'll also come up and
smack people in the mouth in the running game, something the
Steelers insist their corners do.
But the market for Winfield and the other big-name corners on
the free agent market this year will likely push beyond what the
Steelers want to spend, making that a position the team will look
to upgrade in the draft.
But if the Steelers are unable to bring Logan back at a
reasonable price, Cincinnati free safety Mark Roman may draw
The fourth-year pro is well known to new Steelers defensive
coordinator Dick LeBeau and wouldn't be challenged to come in
and play right away. He's also played some corner during his
career, which would give the Steelers some added flexibility in
A final free agent primer
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