Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the last couple of weeks; you noticed the Steelers have been quite active with their roster leading into the free agency period. They managed to make several cost cutting moves while keeping the bulk of the roster intact. But what does all of this mean?
First we need to examine what they’ve done. The team decided to make immediate salary saving impacts by releasing offensive lineman Levi Brown (who never even played a down for them after he was traded for last season), cornerback Curtis Brown, linebacker Larry Foote and then just this week, one time super star linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
Both Curtis and Levi Brown were obvious cuts as they added nothing to the team. Woodley, while providing so much to the team from 2008-2011 became expendable after he couldn’t seem to shake the injury bug the past few years. His salary was far too high for the production he was putting up.
Foote was a little less obvious. His salary was only 1.5 million dollars; he’s a veteran leader and still has some gas left in the tank. He missed all of last season due to injury but it seems he should have been kept to help groom Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones. Instead, he became a cap casualty.
Additionally the team restructured the contracts of Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller.
Each player was entering the final year of their current deal before the team stepped in, restructured both and gave each player new three year deals, ideally keeping both in the black and gold for life. Heath makes a little more sense than Troy in this case. While both are still players who can contribute, Troy is clearly in the sunset of his career and three years may be ambitious.
Pittsburgh also managed to talk Ike Taylor into dropping his 2014 salary from 7 million to 2.75 million without giving him any additional years or a bonus. Proving he’s a true team player, Taylor eagerly signed the contract, ensuring he’d stay with the only team he’s ever known.
To add to the restructures the team re-signed back up safety Will Allen and young up and coming linebacker Jason Worilds. Worilds signed his one year transition tag but the team clearly plans on signing him to a long term deal.
As the team entered free agency on Tuesday they also made a quick splash by signing former Carolina panther free safety Mike Mitchell to a five year deal. Mitchell put up a very strong 2013 and is seven years younger than Ryan Clark, who is now guaranteed to leave. Nobody expected Clark to be back but many thought the job would go to Shamarko Thomas, instead the team went a surprising route.
What do all of these moves mean? It’s actually pretty obvious. Agree with it or not, the Steelers are sticking with the idea that they are not a team who is rebuilding but rather a team who is in it to win it. They think they have the pieces to win now and they are doing their best to build around those pieces.
Oddly enough, their most important piece, Big Ben Roethlisberger, hasn’t been a part of any moves as of yet. With only two years left on his current deal and big salary cap hits applied to those years, it only makes sense to restructure his contract. Will that happen, and if so, when?
Only time will tell. Just as only time will tell if the Steelers moves here in March will pay dividends next season and beyond.
Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association www.steelnationassociation.com- Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.