When free agents slide into late May without a new contract, teams will consider adding often older, productive veterans at a reasonable price.
This is the case with several players who are worth a look for the Steelers. This doesn’t mean the team should sign all these players, but team decision-makers could be talked into a couple of low-risk, one- or two-year deals to bolster depth.
Apparently former Patriots corner Kyle Arrington didn’t make that list, instead signing a three-year deal with New England.
Below is a list of free agents who could get a phone call from the Steelers.
Jermaine Gresham: Heath Miller has played at least 14 games for 10 straight seasons and he has made 50-plus catches the last four years. That streak might continue in 2015, but if it doesn’t, the team could use a talented yet erratic in-line tight end that’s 26 years old. Teams are staying away from Gresham while he heals from back surgery to repair a herniated disc. It’s easy to knock Gresham for not maximizing his potential, but he’s been productive, averaging 56 catches a season since 2010.
Dwight Freeney: Give Freeney 20 to 25 snaps a game off the edge and the 35-year-old can still be mildly productive. The Steelers need a leap from first-round outside linebackers Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree, but Freeney could team with James Harrison and Arthur Moats to bridge the gap. At this stage, he’s a situational pass-rusher all the way. He’s not ready to retire yet and won’t command a hefty price tag anymore. Could be worth a call.
Pierre Thomas: The Steelers have no idea whether Le’Veon Bell will get his three-game suspension for marijuana reduced to one or two games. That’s why they signed DeAngelo Williams. And they have Dri Archer for third-down speed. Signing Thomas could help the Steelers in the passing game, where Thomas has averaged 53 catches and 418 yards receiving the last four years, including 45 for 378 last season. Ben Roethlisberger utilizes Bell’s screen game early and often on Sundays and could use a reliable option there until Bell returns.
Lance Briggs: The Steelers value leadership from the inside linebacker spot, and Briggs was known for it in Chicago. He’s lost a step, but he wouldn’t be asked to play three downs in Pittsburgh. Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons are there for that. Briggs could add an element of toughness while filling in for help when required. Briggs to Pittsburgh seems unlikely but he’s an intriguing option at a position the team values.
Dawan Landry: Landry has always been solid -- not elite, but productive. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranked Landry the ninth overall safety after he registered a +11.0 grade for the Jets last year, finishing the year with 107 tackles. Landry, who knows the Steelers well after five seasons with the Ravens from 2006-10, recently visited with the Bills about a potential pairing. Having a safety such as Landry on a reasonable contract would be the good play if injuries affect the secondary.
Barry Cofield: Cofield probably won’t have a job until closer to camp -- he underwent surgery in March to repair a torn labrum, and also had double sports hernia surgery last year. After 206 career tackles and 19.5 sacks, Cofield, 30, believes he has three-to-five good years left because he can play every position on the line, and in several different schemes. Evaluating Cofield’s health later in the summer would be a smart play.