Post-Gazette writer Ed Bouchette wrote today a good article about the release this past week of Larry Foote, and how it was a gamble for both the Steelers and for Foote, who now has the task of playing for a club that didn’t win a game last season. He goes from the penthouse to the outhouse, but for him, playing was more important than winning.
Another good part of the article was about the player in 2010 that will be free agents. Some are already thinking that 09 is going to be the final season that the team can be competitve, but if you study the roster, that clearly is not the case.
The defense has some age, no doubt, but on the other hand, they have some youth as well that could carry them for another 4-5 seasons. Heading into 2010, provided that these players don’t get new deals, on defense Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel and Ryan Clark will all be free agents.
Hampton and Keisel are cogs of that D-line, a D-line that got some help with Ziggy Hood on draft day, but who knows how long it will be till he makes a big impact. I love both Hampton and Keisel, but I would be surprised if both are back. Unless they both give the team a nice discount, I can see one being on another team in 2010.
Clark is a team leader, and a big hitter, but he’s had injury issues, and while he’s a great soundbite, I think that he is another player that could be replaced in 2010. Who will take his place is a great question, but the team has to start thinking about the future and who is going to play that spot in 10 and beyond.
As for the offense – Willie Parker, Heath Miller, Jeff Reed, Max Starks, Willie Colon and Justin Hartwig are all up after this season. Reed is a must sign. I know that the Steelers have never broken the bank for a kicker, but Reed is a guy they HAVE to make sure is back in 2010 and beyond. He’s as solid a kicker that the team has ever had, and can you ever think of him missing a big kick in a big game? Me neither.
Miller will be back. The team is high on him, and he’ll get a big deal to stick around. He’s a big part of the offense, and again, he’s a solid player on and off the field. Make no mistake, he’ll be around in 10 and beyond, and he’s one player they will want to get locked up.
Willie Parker is the toughest call of the bunch. A lot of his value is going to depend on the 2009 season. The past season was a tough one, as he was hurt and then as I wrote Saturday, he dissapeared from some games when the team could have really needed him. They have Mewelde Moore, and Rashard Mendenhall is a first-round pick, and if he can have a big season, it makes Parker expendable. We shall see.
The other three players are on the O-line. They are working on a deal with Starks to try to get his number lower than the $8.9 mil he’ll make as a franchise player. Probably won’t happen since it would have to be a pretty big deal. Colon is a very good player, as is Hartwig, and again, it will totally depend on the development of younger O-linemen to see if those other guys get new deals or not.
One note – Keisel, Clark, Parker, Hampton, Reed, Starks and Hartwig all would be unrestricted free agents and able to go where they please. Colon and Miller would be restricted free agents if there is no new CBA, so the team would have a say if they go or not. It should be an interesting year off the field for the club as well as on it as they get set to defend their title.