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Is Larry Foote the Most Important Unrestricted Free Agent for the Pittsburgh Steelers?

February 22nd, 2013 at 11:41 PM
By Mark Mihalko

When Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert talked with the media from the NFL Combine, much of the initial water cooler conversations directly after it centered on the salary cap and the potential dysfunction in the locker room.  Even Friday, retired Steelers Hines Ward sounded off on this potential rift. Unfortunately, for many, there was some important news that went somewhat unnoticed, the health of tight end Heath Miller and possibly more ominous the health of Sean Spence.

'2012-12-09 12.22.28' photo (c) 2012, The Football Juice - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
If a fan reads between the lines, the team is extremely concerned about Spence, who suffered a horrific knee injury in the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers that sidelined him for his rookie season. Now after listening to Colbert, there is a real question on whether Spence will ever fully recover from the devastating injury.

This was not the first time news has come out recently that points to this potential situation. Early in the week, a report surfaced that the Steelers had started talking with unrestricted free agent linebacker Larry Foote on a potential return to the franchise. From the outside, for a team that has wide receiver Mike Wallace and cornerback Keenan Lewis slated to become free agents that may have seemed odd. However, it makes a lot of sense considering the make up of the roster.

The injury to Spence, who was drafted to become the heir apparent to James Farrior on defense, leaves the Steelers with a tremendous void that they thought they filled with they selected him. It also leaves starter Lawrence Timmons as the only experienced inside linebacker on the roster at this point, something must be done to provide depth. At this point, there is no certainty that Foote (UFA) or veteran Stevenson Sylvester, who is a restricted free agent, will remain with the franchise for 2013 and beyond.

They team does have two relatively unknown quantities on the roster in Marshall McFadden and Brian Rolle. Of the two, McFadden spent time bouncing from the Steelers practice squad and active roster in 2013 and may be able to step in as a reserve. Rolle, who was signed to a futures contract, has spent some time with the Philadelphia Eagles.  The team could look to a player such a Morrty Ivy, who was injured during training camp to come in and compete, but that is still an unknown.

With the team having so many needs, they could look at inside linebacker early in the draft to help solidify the roster, especially if they cannot work out a deal to bring Foote back into the fold. For fans, some things should start to take shape after the combine, when the salary cap situation is resolved.

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Tags: Brian Rolle, Football, Heath Miller, Kevin Colbert, Larry Foote, Lawrence Timmons, NFL, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Steelers, Sean Spence, Stevenson Sylvester

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