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NFL Draft preview: Steelers regroup after cap hit

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With The Fifteenth Pick, The Pittsburgh Steelers Select...

With The Fifteenth Pick, The Pittsburgh Steelers Select...

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers made some surprising moves in the offseason only because they were in cap hell and were able to climb out of it, at least all the way to cap purgatory, which allowed them to sign some free agents and re-sign some of their own.

Of course, they lost some good ones too, especially wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos) and Jerricho Cotchery (Panthers). They released veteran but oft-injured outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (who then signed with the Raiders) and kept younger Jason Worilds when he signed his transition tag, one-year salary of nearly $9.8 million.

They also released veteran inside linebacker Larry Foote, young cornerback Curtis Brown and veteran tackle Levi Brown. Others lost in free agency were defensive linemen Ziggy Hood (Jaguars) and Al Woods (Titans), safety Ryan Clark (Redskins), halfback Jonathan Dwyer (Cardinals) and tight end David Johnson (Chargers).

Of all the free agents they lost, they tried to keep only two, Cotchery and Woods.

Their most important signing of another team's free agent was Mike Mitchell (Panthers), who will replace Clark at free safety. They signed two veteran wide receivers, Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey, but will draft another one early. They also added much-needed depth to their backfield by signing LeGarrette Blount (Patriots).

Other free agents they signed from other teams are defensive lineman Cam Thomas (Chargers), cornerback Brice McCain (Texans), linebacker Arthur Moats (Bills) and punter Adam Podlesh (Bears).

They also re-signed a handful of their own players who were free agents. Besides Worilds, they included safety Will Allen, offensive linemen Cody Wallace and Guy Whimper and tight end Michael Palmer.

They might try to re-sign veteran defensive end Brett Keisel, an unrestricted free agent, if they do not feel comfortable with that position after the draft. They will clear $8 million in salary-cap room June 2 from the Woodley release that they could use to sign a player such as Keisel or even former Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who has expressed a desire to return. Their interest in re-signing Harrison, who played last year for Cincinnati, could hinge on what happens in the draft as well.

One more free agent of their own they could re-sign later is center/guard Fernando Velasco. He replaced the injured Maurkice Pouncey after the first game and started at center until his Achilles ruptured in the 12th game of the season.
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