Free Agent Focus: Linebackers

As the free agency period fast approaches, Dale Lolley looks at the available free agents that may interest the Pittsburgh Steelers in this multi-part series.

Free Agent Focus:
Running Backs
Defensive Backs
Wide Receivers
Here's part four of our series: Linebackers

Actually, the Pittsburgh Steelers began looking at this offseason in regards to the linebacker position in 2007, selecting Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley in the first two rounds of the draft last spring.

Woodley, the team's second-round pick, is already penciled into the starting lineup in place of veteran Clark Haggans, who will become an unrestricted free agent.

Timmons, meanwhile, was moved to inside linebacker by the team in September and the 2007 first-round pick is expected to challenge Larry Foote for a starting spot next to James Farrior.

But with Haggans and Marquise Cooper – a fringe player who was on and off the team's roster in 2007 – reaching unrestricted free agency, and Arnold Harrison unrestricted, the Steelers should have some openings, particularly at outside linebacker. Veteran inside linebacker Clint Kriewaldt is also beginning to slow down and given the state of the team's special teams play in 2007, a special teams stalwart such as Kriewaldt may not be safe.

The Steelers still like Harrison, but may not be all that comfortable with him being their primary backup at outside linebacker behind Woodley and James Harrison.

With that in mind, the team may scan the free agent crop for somebody capable of challenging Arnold Harrison for that backup job.

Chaun Thompson of Cleveland could be a guy the team looks at.

The four-year veteran and former second-round pick has made 30 starts for the Browns, both inside and outside. His best season came in 2005, when he had 83 tackles and five sacks.

Thompson would also provide some pop on special teams.

Another player that may catch head coach Mike Tomlin's eye when he's scanning the free agent market is Minnesota's Dontarrious Thomas.

The 6-2, 241-pound Thomas had 31 tackles and a sack in 2006, making three starts. That also happened to be the season that Tomlin was Minnesota's defensive coordinator.

Thomas is also a special teams whiz. His 41 special teams tackles in the past three seasons are the most by any Vikings player except for cornerback Antoine Winfield.

Baltimore's Nick Greison is a 6-1, 245-pound bruiser who could be brought in to take Kriewaldt's spot.

A solid special teams performer throughout his six-year NFL career with the Giants, Jacksonville and Baltimore, Greison also showed he could be a solid plugger in the middle when given a chance to start in place of Ray Lewis in 2007. He had a 10-tackle performance against the Seahawks.

Finally, another player who could give the Steelers some much-needed depth both inside and outside while also providing a special teams boost is Indianapolis' Rocky Boiman.

The Steelers brought the 6-4, 235-pound Boiman in for a visit during last year's free agent period, but he chose to re-sign for a one-year deal with the Colts.

Boiman had 55 tackles and two sacks to go along with 15 special teams stops for the Colts in 2007, but is a free agent again.

The Steelers may look his way again.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.


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