Less than a week away from the beginning of the NFL free agency period, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been busy. Retaining high profile, high producing players was clearly a priority, and releasing injured, dead weight was essential.
The most obvious and understanding casualty was offensive tackle Levi Brown, acquired by the Steelers last year in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals. He tore his triceps and was placed on injured reserve in October two weeks after the trade, never seeing the field.
Next up on the chopping block was defensive back Curtis Brown, a third round pick for Pittsburgh in the 2011 draft. Hailing from the University of Texas, Brown had 49 combined tackles and two forced fumbles in his three seasons with the Steelers. Last year he missed several early games due to an illness and then tore his ACL in week 12 during a game against the Cleveland Browns. He was then placed on the injured reserve list, and ended his year with only seven tackles in seven games played.
The most talked about and presumably the biggest release for the Steelers was 12-year veteran linebacker Larry Foote. Foote was drafted by Pittsburgh in 2002 and spent 11 years with the Steelers, and one year in 2009 with the Detroit Lions. Coming back to Pittsburgh in 2010, Foote was generally a solid, injury-free linebacker throughout his career. Playing in 172 regular season games, he suffered a torn bicep last season, in the Steelers very first game of the 2013 against the Tennessee Titans. Placed on the injury reserve list, Foote recorded eight tackles in three quarters in 2013.
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The six-foot-one 239 pound Foote was set to make $1.5 million in 2014. He will now enter free agency on March 11, along with a reported 53 other linebackers up for grabs.
Foote, being in his mid-thirties, may not make him a viable option for most teams. A linebacker with two Super Bowl rings and a nearly injury-free 12 year career just might decide to throw in the towel. If not, the team that does strike a deal with Foote will instantaneously have a seasoned linebacker with an extensive resume, and a veteran that is a defensive leader on the field and in the locker room.
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