- LE’VEON BELL (RB) Bell is a no-brainer to come back as a Steeler in 2017. After his near MVP performance, he will expect to be paid in a big way this offseason. It would not be a bad idea for Pittsburgh to use the franchise tag on their star running back. That would give them another year to decide on whether or not to give Bell a long term contract. This was the third season in a row Bell finished the season injured, that has to be somewhat of a concern. The tag would also allow the Steelers another year to see if he really has put the off field issues behind him.
- LAWRENCE TIMMONS (ILB) At the beginning of the season, I would have bet money Lawrence Timmons would not be back with the team in 2017. Timmons got off to a slow start, and the Steelers gave his backup Vince Williams a contract extension. The second half was a different story as Timmons was clearly one of the best players on the defense. As much as I would like a change in philosophy away from the 3-4 defense, Pittsburgh is sure to run it again and they will need Timmons back to do so. Money, of course will be deciding factor for Timmons return. Expect him to sign a team friendly deal and be back in the middle of the defense next season.
- JARVIS JONES (OLB) Most people expect, even demand, that Jarvis Jones career as a Pittsburgh Steeler is over. I’m not one of those people. Jones could be had on a very cheap deal given his sub par performance as a member of the team. While he has not lived up to the expectations of being a first round pick, Jones has shown flashes and still has the potential of becoming something more. At worst, he could be a solid backup and special teams player with a good knowledge of the system.
- MARKUS WHEATON (WR)Wheaton’s situation is very similar to that of Jarvis Jones. He’s a talented player who has underperformed, and could probably be had for a short term contract at minimal money. The 2016 season was a disaster for Wheaton. It started with a slew of drop passes, and ended with a trip to the IR. He could really benefit by signing a one year contract with the Steelers, and try to rebuild his value before entering free agency the following season.
- DE’ANGELLO WILLIAMS (RB)If De’Angello Williams decides to return for another season, it will almost assuredly be in Pittsburgh. He has filled in seamlessly the several times Le’veon Bell has missed games. Williams is probably Kevin Colbert’s best free agent signing, and he’s sure to bring him back for 2017.
- LANDRY JONES (QB) This one will all come down to money. Pittsburgh probably wants Jones back to be Ben Roehtlisberger’s backup. If another team comes along and offers him anywhere near a decent long term contract, you can wave goodbye for sure. The Steelers claimed Zach Mettenberger off waivers probably for just this scenario. In the end, Jones is an average QB at best and probably has played his last year in a Steeler’s uniform.
- JAMES HARRISON (OLB) Harrison has already announced that he wants to return next season. At 39 he had a remarkable season, and was probably the best pass rusher on the team. The hope is that Pittsburgh brings in a younger player at that position, and Harrison is only used as a situational linebacker in 2017. After all, how much can the Steelers realistically expect out of a 40 year old. If he’s once again the only answer at edge rusher, this defense is in for a long year.