- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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Here is the latest Pittsburgh Steelers' mailbag. If you have a question please send to @ScottBrown_ESPN.com with the #mail.
@ScottBrown_ESPN: I like your thinking here. I've always thought Pierre Thomas was underrated and maybe underutilized in New Orleans. He is a real asset in the passing game and that is where the Steelers may have missed Le'Veon Bell most in their AFC Wild-Card loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Thomas has also been productive as a runner -- he has a career average of 4.6 yards per carry -- and the Steelers would only need him in spot duty. He is 30-years old, has some tread, and has never been a full-time starter. Given that -- and the fact that the running back market is going to be flooded -- the Steelers may be able to sign Thomas even though they won't offer much money and only a limited role.
@ScottBrown_ESPN: I would think so as it's just not the Steelers' way to sign an outside free agent who is 33-years-old, as accomplished as Vince Wilfork is. The Steelers are in pretty good shape as far as the salary cap but don't have seemingly bottomless room as some teams do. They need to spend their free-agent dollars on an outside linebacker, a cornerback if they don't re-sign Brice McCain and maybe a tight end. Wilfork is a luxury that the Steelers cannot afford and I can't imagine them entertaining any thoughts of trying to sign the five-time Pro Bowler.
@ScottBrown_ESPN: Virgil Green, at 26-years-old, fits the profile of the mid- to lower-tier free agents they like to sign. He is a young player but also has experience. The one question I have with Green is how did he catch just six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown last season while playing in such a prolific pass offense? I get that starting tight end Julius Thomas gobbled up a lot of passes but there are always plenty of balls to go around when Peyton Manning is the quarterback. Even if Green is primarily a blocker he is young enough for the Steelers to check out with tight end a need -- and possibly sign if the price is right as it was last year for free agents such as outside linebacker Arthur Moats and McCain.
@ScottBrown_ESPN: I don't think either is a viable for different reasons. The Steelers rarely sign outside free agents who have 11 NFL seasons under their best as is the case with Wilfork. Terrance Knighton is only 28 years old and would be the kind of free agent that would interest the Steelers if they had more of a need at nose tackle. But Steve McLendon is a solid player and the Steelers have a developmental nose tackle in Daniel McCullers. Given their more acute needs at outside linebacker and cornerback, the Steelers aren't going to engage in the kind of bidding that would be required to sign Knighton.
@ScottBrown_ESPN: I love C.J. Spiller as a player and the speed he would add to the Steelers is intriguing. But he is only 27 years old and has too much football in him to think the former first-round draft pick will sign with a team that can only offer him a backup role as well limited money. Keep in mind that Le'Veon Bell's base salary for 2015 is just under $780,000 so it's hard to imagine the Steelers pay more than that to his backup and Spiller should at the very least fetch $1 million a season on the open market. Fortunately for the Steelers the free-agent market and draft are both deep at running back so they will find a backup to Bell. It just won't be Spiller.
@ScottBrown_ESPN: It is an organizational philosophy to build through the draft and supplement through free agency. It is hard to argue with that approach given the Steelers' sustained success and the idea is to win in January, not March. It never ceases to amaze me the number of teams that grab the headlines in free agency with splashy shopping sprees but don't come close to contending for the Super Bowl the following season. The Steelers pick their spots with signing pricey free agents and they have had success doing that with center Jeff Hartings and linebacker James Farrior. I think they are willing to make a significant investment in an outside linebacker though they won't vastly overpay for one.
@ScottBrown_ESPN: The only way they would re-sign LaMarr Woodley is if he accepted a veteran minimum deal or something close to it that would have a lot of incentives built into a one-year contract. The Steelers would also have to be convinced that Woodley has fully committed to getting his career back on track to have any interest in him. If that is the case he is an option, I suppose, if the Steelers are unable to sign a top -- or mid-tier outside linebacker in free agency. But the Steelers should only consider signing Woodley if there is no risk on their end.