Steelers land starters on the cheap, find potential star in Ladarius Green

A breakdown of the first week of free agency for the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Most significant signing: Tight end Ladarius Green. The Steelers acted swiftly after Heath Miller's retirement, targeting Green during the three-day negotiating window and locking him to a four-year deal at reasonable money ($20 million). Green is a vertical threat at tight end, which isn't easy to find. He upgrades the Steelers' athleticism at this position, though they will miss Miller's all-around game and leadership. But in this offense, watch out for Green.

Most significant loss: Nose tackle Steve McLendon. The Steelers didn't have any stars to retain this free agency, but McLendon was valuable because he can help stop the run and the team wanted him back -- at a price. He likely won't return as a result, forcing erratic Daniel McCullers into an elevated role, unless the team gets tackle help in the draft or free agency. Cornerback Brandon Boykin is also a significant loss, but he wasn't expected to return.

Player they should have signed or still could sign: Former Lions defensive end Jason Jones. The Steelers are still talking with Jones, a natural edge rusher who can play inside if asked. Jones would give the Steelers a third defensive linemen with starter's experience while fitting the hybrid role for a defense using a natural nose tackle less and less.

What's next: The Steelers will continue to bargain shop, looking for players at $1 million to $2 million per year. They will evaluate the defensive back position. Otherwise, the team will hit the draft hard. Locking up Green and Ramon Foster gives the Steelers freedom in the first few rounds, as opposed to drafting solely for need.

Overall grade: B-plus. The Steelers re-signed a starting corner (William Gay), offensive guard, tight end and several role players for a little more than $10 million in cap space. That's not easy to do. The Steelers got bargains all over the field, including offensive tackle Ryan Harris, who has starter's experience, for $2 million per year. The Steelers used free agency as a supplement and did so judiciously.