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Offseason Forecast: Pittsburgh Steelers

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With the offseason officially underway, Around The NFL will examine what's next for all 32 teams. Next up: Pittsburgh Steelers.

What's changing?


With the offseason underway, Around The NFL explores what's next for all 32 teams.

AFC East:
AFC North:
AFC South:
AFC West:
NFC East:
NFC North:
NFC South:
NFC West:

The Steelers are set on offense with one of the most talented young units in the league, but the defense is in flux following the split with venerated coordinator Dick LeBeau. New defensive boss Keith Butler will be charged with revamping a leaky secondary, shoring up a run defense that has atrophied the past two years and coaxing breakout seasons from young linebackers Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier.

Mike Tomlin's squad won eight of their final 10 regular-season games once Martavis Bryant added much-needed size and playmaking ability to Ben Roethlisberger's aerial attack. As long as the move from LeBeau to Butler doesn't backfire, the Steelers should be one of the Patriots' top challengers in the AFC.

Biggest free agents


» LB Jason Worilds: The Steelers hope to re-sign their top young pass rusher, but the two sides have been unable to find common ground. If Worilds hits the open market, the Titans and Eagles are expected to be hot on his trail.

» LB James Harrison: Harrison went from watching games on his couch in September to most feared defensive player on the team by December. Although he turns 37 this offseason, his 2014 game tape suggests Harrison can still play at a high level. The Steelers should bring him back as a hedge against Jarvis Jones' development.

» CB Ike Taylor: After playing with a target on his back for a portion of the season, Taylor was scratched for the Steelers' playoff loss. Turning 35 in May, he's unlikely to be back in Pittsburgh. Perhaps he'll follow LeBeau to Nashville for a year.

Other key free agents: Arthur Moats, Will Allen, Ben Tate, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Matt Spaeth, Brice McCain

On the way out?


» S Troy Polamalu: The eight-time Pro Bowl selection acknowledged after the Wild Card round loss to the Ravens that he might have played his last NFL game. Polamalu has an $8.25 million cap number, which is a lot to devote to a player who was a liability at times in his age-33 season.

» WR Lance Moore: Moore has reportedly requested his release, which the team will likely grant. The 31-year-old was an afterthought in Todd Haley's offense once Martavis Bryant emerged as the No. 3 receiver at midseason. Moore is due $1.5 million in 2015.

» DE Brett Keisel: Keisel, 36, plans to evaluate his future after rehabbing his surgically repaired shoulder. Like Moore, he's due $1.5 million this season. The Steelers drafted his replacement in Stephon Tuitt last offseason.

What they need


Outside of a young tight end to eventually succeed Heath Miller, the offseason resources will be devoted to adjustments on the defensive side of the ball. The Steelers' top need is a physical young cornerback to handle opposing No. 1 receivers. If Worilds departs for greener pastures, pass rusher will be high on the wish list as well. Safeties Mike Mitchell and Shamarko Thomas have been disappointments to date. It will require a leap of faith to put the secondary in their hands should Polamalu hang up his cleats.

Offseason crystal ball


General manager Kevin Colbert tends to use free agency to fill obvious holes, allowing for a best-available approach to the draft. He might not have that luxury this year. The Worilds situation could go either way. We tentatively expect him to return if only because the AFC North champions lack any semblance of stability at outside linebacker without his presence. It should be easier for the Steelers to find common ground with Harrison, whose preference last summer was to play in Pittsburgh. In that scenario, Colbert could then address the secondary early in the draft.

There's enough talent on this roster for the Steelers to defend their divisional crown, but only if the recent first-round draft picks come through with breakout seasons.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the top 25 free agents and reacts to the latest news. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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