A 10-step guide to the Steelers' offseason

From ESPN - February 15, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- Every offseason seems to form its own identity for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Two years ago, the Steelers were trying to go from good to great by adding a few pieces in free agency and locking up key linemen. Last year, the team for once had some salary-cap space, which it used to bet big on Antonio Brown and franchise tag Le'Veon Bell.

This year, the roster picture is relatively clear. Bell is the priority free agent, and though a few positional needs exist on defense, the team wo not be pressured into any major decisions in free agency or otherwise.

The offseason kicks off in earnest now. The Super Bowl is nearly two weeks in the rearview, the NFL combine is two weeks away, and the Steelers are formulating their game plan for the next six months.

To save you some time, heres a step-by-step look at that process.

Franchise tag looms large: Tuesday is the first day teams are permitted to use a franchise or transition tag on a player. That window closes March 6. If the Steelers ca not work out a long-term contract with Bell by the end of the month, tagging him at $14.5 million and keeping him out of free agency would be a sound move. But both parties would prefer to avoid that, after last year got messy.

Free-agency plans loosely set around NFL combine: The combine kicks off Feb. 27, at which time the Steelers will likely talk with in-house free agents while vetting hundreds of prospects. This could be a light lift, since Bell's contract is the only pressing decision left. Consider the rest of the free-agent lineup:

OT Chris Hubbard: After acquitting himself well in 10 starts last season, he will get paid elsewhere. And the Steelers know it.

OLB Arthur Moats: Still a good backup pass-rusher and special-teamer, but he might be a veteran minimum guy at this point.

WR Justin Hunter: Could return on an affordable one-year deal but did not get much of a look in a crowded receiver room.

DT Dan McCullers: Probably time to move on.

RB Fitz Toussaint: A good depth tailback but not a must-sign.

RB Stevan Ridley, S Daimion Stafford, ILB Sean Spence: Probably not priorities.

Restricted free agents: OLB Anthony Chickillo, K Chris Boswell, WR Eli Rogers: All three might be worth late-round tenders, which will come in just below $2 million once the numbers are announced later this month.

Early March moves: The three-day window to negotiate with unrestricted free agents begins March 12, and contracts can be finalized starting at 4 p.m. ET on March 14. As a build-through-the-draft team, the Steelers typically dont spend a whole lot in the first week. But they know how close they are to a Super Bowl after four straight playoff appearances, so a mildly aggressive move or two -- key word: mildly -- would not shock. If the Steelers plan to target an inside linebacker such as NaVorro Bowman, those intentions might start to crystallize as the calendar strikes March.


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