Steelers free agency primer: DL

As the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers figure to be raided in free agency. It's just a fact of life in today's NFL.

As the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers figure to be raided in free agency. It's just a fact of life in today's NFL.

The Steelers have 13 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents when the signing period opens Feb. 27. Over the next few weeks, we'll look at the Steelers position-by-position as they head into the period and what direction they may go.

Today: The defensive line.

The Steelers' defensive line is perfect for what they do, eating up blockers and allowing the linebackers to clean up running plays and get sacks. They've even shown the ability to get to the quarterback a little bit themselves.

But let's face facts, advancing age on the defensive line was considered a problem heading into the 2008 season and now all of those players are another year older.

Aaron Smith will turn 33, Casey Hampton 32 and Brett Keisel 31 this year. Of the backups, only Nick Eason is under 30, and he'll turn 29 in May.

The Steelers have one free agent defensive lineman, 13-year-veteran Orpheus Roye, who was signed in training camp.

Roye said he'd like to return in 2009, but considering he's 36, the Steelers may want to go with somebody younger.

Former Penn State star Scott Paxson has hung around on the team's practice squad and active roster the past few years, but hasn't been able to earn a full-time roster spot.

The Steelers would like to add some young talent at the position, the sooner the better.

But the Steelers have also shown that they are willing to go out and add veteran defensive line depth in free agency as well. Roye, Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason all came to the team via that route.

The Steelers won't go after the big-name free agent defensive linemen such as Julius Peppers or Albert Haynesworth, but there are some others who might interest them.

Washington's Kedrick Golston (6-4, 292) is a restricted free agent who was a sixth-round pick by the Redskins in 2006. If Washington were to tender him a low offer, he could interest the Steelers.

New England's Mike Wright (6-4, 295) can play nose tackle or end in a 3-4, something he has done throughout his four seasons with the Patriots. That kind of versatility could interest the Steelers as well.

Again, outside the big names, there aren't a lot of known commodities on the defensive line free agent market and the Steelers are more likely to address the position through the draft.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.


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