Pittsburgh Steelers fans were disappointed with the result of the 2012 NFL season, as the team missed the playoffs. This disappointment only increased when their bitter rival, the Baltimore Ravens, won the Super Bowl. As Steelers fans eye a return to the playoffs in 2013, here are five potential free agent targets for the team to pursue this offseason. Available free agents are identified with the help of Football’s Future 2013 NFL Free Agent Tracker.
Wide Receiver – Danny Amendola
With the potential departure of top receiver Mike Wallace, the Steelers will need to address this position. The Steelers offensive system seems to rely less on long downfield throws, making a deep threat like Wallace less essential to the success of the passing game. Instead, a nice replacement for Wallace would be Danny Amendola. While Amendola only played in 11 games last year due to injury, he still managed to finish first for the St. Louis Rams in receptions and third on the team in yards. Amendola is a great possession receiver in the mold of Hines Ward, a former Steeler favorite. He would serve as a great target for Ben Roethlisberger.
Cornerback – Sam Shields
While he is a restricted free agent, meaning that Green Bay could match any contract offer, Sam Shields would represent a significant upgrade over the current starting cornerbacks for the Steelers. There is a real need for the team to improve in the secondary. With safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark both over 30, the Steelers would benefit from an infusion of speed and youth in the secondary through the addition of a good coverage cornerback.
Backup Quarterback – Matt Moore
Roethlisberger’s injury in Week 10 had a significant impact on the Steelers’ playoff run and was a key reason why the team missed the playoffs. While Charlie Batch helped the team to a win against Baltimore in Week 13, the overall performance of Batch and backup QB Byron Leftwich left much to be desired. While I think Roethlisberger is one of the toughest players in the league, there is always a risk for injury. For this reason, the Steelers need to have a reliable backup quarterback to call on. After starting 13 games for the Miami Dolphins in 2011, Matt Moore served as the backup to rookie Ryan Tannehill in 2012. He would be a significant upgrade over Leftwich and Batch, providing the Steelers with a quality backup for Roethlisberger.
Left Tackle – Ryan Clady
Ryan Clady just finished a nice season helping to keep Peyton Manning protected from opposing pass rushers. The offensive line has been a weakness for the Steelers over the past few seasons. Injuries and ineffectiveness have hurt the running game and Roethlisberger’s effectiveness in the passing game. Clady would provide the Steelers with solid play at left tackle, while combining with youngsters Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro to serve as a great offensive line foundation for years to come.
Linebacker – Paul Kruger
This move would benefit the Steelers and hurt their rivals, the Baltimore Ravens. Paul Kruger performed well this season, producing nine sacks and an interception. At 27, he would help the Steelers get younger at the outside linebacker position. He also could serve as an eventual replacement for an aging James Harrison. Kruger would be a significant loss for the Ravens on defense, further increasing his value for Steelers.
The Steelers are usually quiet during free agency, with a preference to build through the draft. However, an aging defense and key needs on offense should encourage some activity this offseason. The moves above, combined with a good draft, would help the Steelers return to the playoffs in 2013.