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Friday, February 8, 2013
First look at free agency: Pittsburgh Steelers

By Jamison Hensley

Here's what the Pittsburgh Steelers should do with their prime free agents. The NFL free-agency period begins March 12.

SHOULD RE-SIGN

ILB Larry Foote, QB Charlie Batch, G/C Doug Legursky, S Will Allen.

The Steelers need to bring back Foote because they can't be confident that Stevenson Sylvester can start and they can't be certain Sean Spence can move into a starting role this season after last year's severe knee injury. The other names on this list won't have fans rushing to make reservations for the Super Bowl, but they are valuable to the team's depth. The Steelers won't go with two aging backup quarterbacks like last year, and Batch earned the right to stay. Legursky is the backup to Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who has dealt with injuries the past two seasons, and he can also play guard. The Steelers were fortunate to have Allen after Ryan Mundy flopped in a starting role.

SHOULD LET WALK

WR Mike Wallace, NT Casey Hampton, RB Rashard Mendenhall, OT Max Starks, G/T Ramon Foster, QB Byron Leftwich, S Ryan Mundy and WR Plaxico Burress.

The Steelers don't have enough salary-cap room to keep Wallace, and he's not a good fit for Todd Haley's style of offense. And even though there have been reports that the Steelers have had contract talks with Mendenhall, Pittsburgh needs to cut ties with him. His play has declined the past two seasons, and it's time for the Steelers to get a younger back in the draft.

It would be more accurate to put Hampton and Foster in the "Have to let walk" category because the Steelers don't have the cap room to retain them. Hampton showed last season that he has more left than originally believed. The Steelers need to get younger on the offensive line and at backup quarterback, which means the end for Starks and Leftwich, respectively.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

CB Keenan Lewis. There's no question that Lewis is the Steelers' top priority in free agency. But it's going to be difficult to keep him considering he's a rising player at a coveted position and the Steelers are cap-strapped again. Lewis stepped up in his first season as a starter, leading the AFC with 23 passes broken up. If the Steelers can't keep Lewis, they'll go with Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen as starters with Curtis Brown as the nickel back.