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Steelers won free agency before it even began

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Everything’s coming up Pittsburgh, but there’s still work left to do.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers’ top two priorities heading into the offseason: lock up Antonio Brown to a long-term extension and don’t let Le’Veon Bell hit the free agent market.

Mission already accomplished.

On Monday, the Steelers slapped the franchise tag on superstar running back Bell, ensuring he’ll stick around for at least the next season. Pittsburgh later made Brown the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL by signing him to a four-year extension.

Holding onto this year’s top free agent and extending one of the NFL’s best receivers to a long-term deal? Just another day in Pittsburgh.

The “Killer B’s” — Bell, Brown, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — will all reunite next season in an attempt to repeat as AFC North champions. That alone makes Pittsburgh a lethal offense, but things could get even better. Martavis Bryant applied for reinstatement in January and is still waiting for a response from the NFL.

With those stars, along with one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, there’s no questioning whether Pittsburgh will boast a top offense next season — that is, assuming the team can keep some semblance of health throughout 2017.

The Steelers still have some work to do between now and next season.

There are still holes the Steelers need to fill

Linebackers James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, and Jarvis Jones are all free agents, so re-signing at least two of those guys is the next priority for Pittsburgh. Harrison has already made it clear he, like Brown, wants to keep playing for the Steelers.

The team could resort to free agency or the draft to fill the need at the position. Right now, Dan Kadar has Pittsburgh taking pass rusher Takkarist McKinley in his latest mock draft. Guys on the market to keep an eye out for include Alex Okafor, DeMarcus Ware, Lorenzo Alexander, and former AFC North rival Paul Kruger.

Backup running back DeAngelo Williams, who performed at an incredibly high level in spot starting duties, could also hit the market. With Bell’s durability concerns, keeping Williams around or signing a back of comparable value could go a long way. There’s a lot of talent at the running back position in this year’s draft class, and free agent options include Darren McFadden, Chris Johnson, and former Steeler LeGarrette Blount.

Finally, re-signing some role players — Markus Wheaton, Cody Wallace and backup quarterback Landry Jones, for example — will solidify Pittsburgh’s roster as the team enters the NFL Draft in April. Jones, in particular, could be interesting. Roethlisberger has hinted at a possible retirement and has struggled staying healthy. Drafting a possible successor to Roethlisberger, who turns 35 on March 2, could be in the cards for the Steelers.

Adding a few young playmakers in the draft to help Keith Butler’s young defense, or even to strengthen the offense, could also yield big dividends for Pittsburgh down the line. Artie Burns, Sean Davis, and Javon Hargrave all contributed as rookies last year, and there’s bound to be a rookie or two who can upgrade the roster as a starter next season.

But the Steelers wouldn’t have this flexibility had they not made these two huge moves with Bell and Brown. Both players have cases to make as the best players at their respective positions, and the Steelers managed to retain both — for the 2017 season, at the very least — without any significant obstacles.