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Steelers gamble on re-signing own restricted free agents

| Monday, March 11, 2013, 12:30 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers' Steve McLendon celebrates a defensive play against the Browns in December 2012 at Heinz Field.

The Steelers are taking a gamble by offering restricted free agent nose tackle Steve McLendon a low tender of $1.3 million, rather than a high tender of $2 million that would have gained them a second-round draft pick if he signed elsewhere.

Low tenders were made to four of the Steelers' six restricted free agents: running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and McLendon. Offers weren't made to punter Jeremy Kapinos, who hasn't played for them since the 2011 season, and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester.

With free agent nose tackle Casey Hampton unlikely to return, McLendon was expected to step in and be his replacement. But by not offering McLendon a second-round tender, the Steelers risk losing him to another team without compensation because he wasn't drafted.

The Steelers could match any offer to McLendon, bu, given their precarious salary-cap situation, that might prove difficult. If they somehow lose both Hampton and McLendon — an unlikely scenario — they would have no experienced player to fill a vital run-stopping position in coordinator Dick LeBeau's defense.

The Steelers would get a sixth-round pick if Dwyer signed with another team and no compensation if Redman went elsewhere, though each would appear to have minimal value on the open market. Sanders would be worth a third-round pick.

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