The NFL Lockou…. er, um, free agent signing period is about to start.
Seriously, the NFL Players and Owners are headed to a work stoppage. But at some point there will be some kind of free agency, and here is a look at some of the decisions the Steelers face:
Ike Taylor – Drafted in 2003, Ike Taylor has been a fixture at corner for the Steelers, save his mid-season benching at during Bill Cowher’s final year. Taylor is the team’s top corner. He does not have the interceptions to be considered an elite corner in the league. At age 31, this figures to be Taylor’s last big money contract.
Cutting to the Chase on Ike Taylor: The Steelers need Ike Taylor, and after having franchised him he appears to be their top priority. Taylor is never going to evolve into a shut down corner at this stage of his career, but if he will never be a “great” corner in this league is already a very good one.
- Expect Taylor to stay.
Nick Eason – Joined the team as an unrestricted free agent in 2007 and has served as a reliable back up, rotating into the starting role in the face of injuries to Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith. In five starts in 2010, Eason recorded 1.5 sacks.
Cutting to the Chase on Nick Eason: Eason gives you everything you want in a back up, versatility, knowledge of the system, enough ability to so that opposing offenses know he is no push over, and an ability to make a play.
- The Steelers should and most likely will bring Eason back.
Jonathan Scott – Joined the team as an unrestricted free agent in 2010, largely on the strength of his relationship with offensive line coach Sean Klugler and his ability to play in a “musical chairs” type environment. My God, did that ability come in handy in 2010. Only projected to be a back up, Scott played in all sixteen game and started nine.
Cutting to the Chase on Jonathan Scott: Yes Scott did appear to be the weak link on the Steelers line in any number of games, but Max Stark’s injury forced him into the starting line up at left tackle, the most difficult position. Scott may not have always excelled, but no one will question his tenacity.
- The Steelers made it to Super Bowl XLV because guys like Jonathan Scott stepped up and refused to pay the naysayers any mind. The Steelers should bring him back.
Matt Spaeth – Joined the Steelers as a 3rd round draft pick in 2007. Spaeth has started a fair number of games in the two TE set, and early in his career the Steelers threw to him infrequently, but Speath did catch it fairly well. Speath got more action in 2010 due to Heath Millers injury and his performance was so-so.
Cutting to the Chase on Matt Spaeth: Spaeth has not lived up to his potential as a 3rd round draft pick, and David Johnson made some strides this year.
- Matt Spaeth will likely test the market but almost as likely return to the Steelers.
Daniel Sepulevda – Joined the Steelers as a fourth round draft pick in 2007, but has only completed two full seasons as the team’s punter.
Cutting to the Chase on Daniel Sepulevda – Like his counter part Matt Speath, Sepulevda has failed to live up to his potential, and now has 3 ligament tears in two knees.
- The Steelers could do worse than Dan Sepulevda but they can and have made two Super Bowls without him. And Justin Kapios looked pretty good….
Chris Hoke – Joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 2001, and has played in 108 games and started 16, including 10 in 2004 the year the Steelers went 15-1.
Cutting to the Chase on Chris Hoke: Is there a more under recognized player on the Steelers defense? Chris Hoke’s value to the team defies statistics. When Casey Hampton must come out, the Steelers do not miss a beat with Chris Hoke.
- The Steelers must do what they have to in order to keep Chris Hoke. Given his lack of notoriety, Hoke may draw little interest, but the Steelers must not be complacent.
So concludes part I of Steel Curtain Rising’s annual Steelers Free Agent Focus. Stay tuned for part II, coming soon to a lock out near you.