View Full Version : Steelers offseason: One will stay, one will go

02-15-2009, 08:52 AM
Steelers offseason: One will stay, one will go
Marvel Smith has missed 19 over the past two season (Times photo by Lucy Schaly)

By Mike Bires, Times Sports Staff

PITTSBURGH — Kevin Colbert and his staff had no time to celebrate the Steelers’ latest Super Bowl victory. For them, the essence of their work is always the present.

They are busy preparing for two important assignments: the NFL Draft and free agency.

“We’re just kind of doing our homework right now,” said Colbert, who heads up the Steelers’ personnel department.

With two Super Bowl wins in the past four years, Colbert and his scouts have obviously done their homework well. But when the Steelers begin their defense of the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl win in September, there will be change.

The Steelers have 13 players who can be unrestricted free agents when free agency begins on Feb. 27. Many of those 13 will not be back.

Besides choosing which of their own free agents to keep, Colbert must decide if any of the hundreds of free agents throughout the league fit the Steelers’ mold.

Then on April 25-26, the Steelers will pick six-to-eight rookies in the NFL Draft. As the Super Bowl champs, they have the 32nd — the last — pick of the first round.

“Obviously this is a pretty good team and we’re going to want to keep it together the best we can,” Colbert said. “What combination, I really can’t say at this point.”

One of the toughest decisions Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin have to make is at left tackle where Marvel Smith and Max Starks are both eligible for unrestricted free agency. In all probability, only one of them will be signed.

Of the two, Starks has the most to gain on the open market. He’s 6-foot-8 and 345 pounds. He’s only 27 years old, and he’s already started on two Super Bowl teams.

Smith, who’ll be 31 when the 2009 season starts, only played five games this year before back spasms ended his season. He’s now missed 19 of the Steelers’ last 36 games. He was also upset with management before the 2007 season started because he didn’t receive a contract extension.

Starks may have lost his starting job at right tackle to Willie Colon last year. But he did hold his own at left tackle when Smith went down.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in free agency,” offensive line coach Larry Zierlein said. “That’s not my job. But I will say this about Max. He played better and better as the year went on. I think that has something to do with him playing left tackle. If you remember, he played left tackle in college.”

Beside Starks and Smith, two other linemen are unrestricted free agents — starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu and backup guard/tackle Trai Essex.

The only other starter eligible for unrestricted free agency is cornerback Bryant McFadden.

Other UFAs are wide receiver Nate Washington, quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch, linebackers Keyaron Fox and Andre Frazier, punter Mitch Berger, cornerback Fernando Bryant and defensive end Orpheus Roye.

“We haven’t made any definite offers or decisions on any of our guys at this point,” Colbert said. “But it’s safe to say that we will try to keep as many of our own guys as possible, fully understanding that it may not be possible. We may have to go outside, either through free agency or through the draft, to replace some guys we potentially could lose.”

Colbert and his scouts, Tomlin and his assistants and the Steelers’ training staff will be in Indianapolis next week for the annual NFL Combine. That’s when they’ll evaluate more than 300 draft eligible prospects over a six-day period.

“Your team’s not going to be the same as it was this year,” Colbert said. “All of our attempts aren’t going to be able to do that, no matter what. So you have to be realistic and understand that.”

That’s even true for a team coming off a Super Bowl season. After the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, they lost three starters in free agency: wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen and free safety Chris Hope.

02-15-2009, 09:32 AM
Nice read. I believe the Steelers will end up keeping Max Starks and making him our starting LT and it means the end of the injury prone Marvel Smith who is gonna be 31 soon. His days should be numbered in Pittsburgh unless he takes wayyy less money.

I would also love to see the Steeler keep DB Bryant McFadden, but I would really be suprised if they can keep him.

02-15-2009, 09:41 AM
that is a crazy amount of players who are FA..
and the 27th is getting closer and closer

Dino 6 Rings
02-15-2009, 12:41 PM
It'll all work out. I have massive amounts of faith in our front office.

2 Rings in 4 years. Yeah, they have my trust.

02-15-2009, 12:49 PM
that is a crazy amount of players who are FA..
and the 27th is getting closer and closer

you think this year is bad wait until next year

Galax Steeler
02-15-2009, 01:29 PM
I believe that Starks will stay and Smith will be gone why would we sign someone who stays hurt most of the season.

02-16-2009, 09:07 AM
because we can afford him