With the Pittsburgh Steelers season now officially over, like head coach Mike Tomlin said, it's time to "wrap a bow" around it.
In his season-concluding press conference, Tomlin praised and thanked many players for their efforts all season, but was realistic about why they were 8-8 and blatantly said that "we didn't like it." - http://blog.steelers.com/2012/12/31/time-to-wrap-a-bow-around-the-season/
Not only did the players receive their press time, but the coaches did also. He was honest about what his offensive and defensive coordinators, Todd Haley and Dick LeBeau, did over the course of the season, admitting that they did not perform as well as they could have at various points. To say the least.
In doing so, he gave thumbs up to LeBeau, saying that "he's a special guy." Tomlin noted that the defense started slowly, but rounded into form as the season progressed. The defense once again ended the season as the No. 1 ranked unit.
But we'll save looking back for future articles. For now, let's take a quick look at what is currently transpiring and what it could mean for the future, i.e. free agency.
According to the Steelers website, there are 24 free agents, and 26 in total. The Unrestricted are: Will Allen, Charlie Batch, Plaxico Burress, Larry Foote, Ramon Foster, Casey Hampton, Brandon Johnson, David Johnson, Byron Leftwich, Doug Legursky, Justin King, Keenan Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Mundy, Leonard Pope, Max Starks, Mike Wallace and Greg Warren.
The Restricted are: Jonathan Dwyer, Jeremy Kapinos, Steve McLendon, Isaac Redman, Stevenson Sylvester and Emmanuel Sanders. - http://tinyurl.com/bc27am3
The two not mentioned are Exclusive Rights are: Baron Batch and DeMarcus Van Dyke. - http://rotoworld.com
Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently took the 18 unrestricted free agents and offered his predictions on who would be in a Steelers uniform next season. - http://tinyurl.com/amu6lus
Amongst his predictions were "Gone" votes for three of the more important UFAs: wide receiver Plaxico Burress, right guard Ramon Foster and cornerback Keenan Lewis. But, are all hopelessly gone? No. There is the possibility of seeing two of them come back.
Burress came to the Steelers late in the season and only had a handful of catches. Being that he saw only limited time, and that he was inactive half the time, was a reason that Dejan Kovacevic, also of the Trib, thinks Plax's value would be held down enough so that he could be back next season. - http://tinyurl.com/ax6kslu
The one who may be the biggest enigma is Foster. The good news is that he became much more valuable when showing that he not only was very good at his position, but by showing his versatility when playing right tackle and left guard.
The bad news is that he became much more valuable when showing that he not only was very good at his position, but by showing his versatility when playing right tackle and left guard.
That value could bring him a multi-year contract in free agency, if he decides to test the waters. Waters that Kaboly speculates could bring him somewhere in the range of $13 million over four years with an approximate $3.5 million signing bonus. - http://tinyurl.com/adkx2dp
Though Foster did say in his season-ending interview that he'd like to be back because of the potential on this offensive line, he realizes that this is still a business. - http://blog.steelers.com/2012/12/31/foster-likes-potential-on-the-line/
Lewis, one of the Steelers' most important UFAs, was involved in a bit of controversy Tuesday when it was reported that he wanted out of Pittsburgh. He then took to the social media airwaves to clear up his future intentions with the team.
He posted this to his personal Twitter (@KeenanLewis23) account: "I just want to clear this up: I never said anything about @steelers making a mistake by not signing me last season. I love the Rooneys, Organization & fans. I only stayed that my agent will handle the contract talks."
He said further: “I was misquoted by a reporter saying it was a mistake not to give me a contract last year. Try to make my image look bad, but here Wat it is, I'm not money greedy, I had my exit meeting today and it went great. I know we in the right direction as far as a contract, I believe strongly I would be apart of Steeler Nation next season. To do a three peat as the number one pass defense period. Here we go."
The reporter in question Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Trib Total Media. He had reported that “Keenan Lewis plans to test free agency. He told #Steelers "they made a mistake" by not offering multi-year deal before 2012 season.”
Robinson is a quality reporter, one whom If It Ain't Steel often uses as a reference, so there was assuredly some miscommunication with he and Lewis' agent. Nonetheless, it's a good sign that Lewis is looking at this positively, because the Steelers will need him. He ended his season with 71 tackles, 23 pass defenses and a forced fumble.
As Dale Lolley of the Observer-Reporter of Washington (Pa.) tweeted from his Twitter (@dlolleyor) account: "I'll be shocked if the #Steelers don't make a serious play to keep Keenan Lewis. Played outstanding this year and is perfect fit for scheme."
So will we, Lolley, because he is a major key to the Steelers secondary going forward. With Ike Taylor getting older and Curtis Brown not yet developing, Lewis and Cortez Allen may be the two most important cornerbacks right now as the Steelers prepare the offseason roster for the 2013 season.
Speaking of the offseason roster, the Steelers announced that they've signed former New England Patriots safety Ross Ventrone (per Mark Kaboly, his brother, Ray, is a safety for the Browns), offensive linemen Joe Long (whose older brother is Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl tackle Jake Long) and Justin Cheadle, wide receivers Derek Moye and Bert Reed, and cornerback Isaiah Green to Reserves/Futures contracts, with the last five all spending time on the Steelers practice squad this season.
Another UFA the Steelers may look to for a veteran presence in the 2013 season, especially to help mentor 2012 draft pick inside linebacker Sean Spence, is Larry Foote. Foote was on 93.7 The Fan Wednesday and said that to do that, he'd be willing to take less to stay in Pittsburgh: http://tinyurl.com/amx7u3b
TIDBITS: Kaboly had an interesting...well, tidbit about Ross Ventrone whom the Steelers signed. He said that Ventrone "was either signed, promoted or released 30 times in 32 months since being undrafted in 2010."
Another important UFA is Will Allen who really stepped up this season and showed he's more than just a special teams player. What does he think about his future in Black and Gold?
Allen said he wants to be back next year, because "it is a hard place to leave. Even if they let you go it is a hard place to leave."