Colbert not detailing Steelers plan for free agency or new contracts
By Alan Robinson
General manager Kevin Colbert isn't dropping any hints about whether any of the Steelers' nearly two dozen free agents will return in 2014, saying there is still much shaking out to occur around the NFL before the start of free agency March 11.
Among the Steelers unrestricted free agents are linebacker Jason Worilds, defensive end Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel and wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery.
During his annual post-season wrap-up news conference Wednesday, Colbert wouldn't comment about any individual player's contract status – including whether quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's contract will be extended or reworked.
But he also said that, despite having a league-high seven players who currently count $8.4 million or more against the cap, the Steelers have not mismanaged the cap. And he said the Steelers won't ever be in the position of having to blow out numerous players to create cap room and, essentially, start over with younger players.
However, he said the Steelers “are open to changing it” – namely, their approach of keeping older, productive players even after they have gone into costly second and third contracts. Teams such as the Broncos and Patriots take a different approach by constantly turning over their rosters.
Colbert also called the second 8-8 season in a row “disappointing,” but he commended coach Mike Tomlin and the players for rebounding to win eight of 12 and six of the final eight.
“But it still wasn't good enough,” he said. “Nobody was good enough, including myself.”
Colbert also said it's “a concern” when a player such as outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley keeps having ongoing health issues that keep him off the field, but he wouldn't say if the Steelers might cut him – a costly move given the $14 million dead money hit in salary cap space they would absorb.
Colbert also said:
--- The 2014 draft class is the deepest he's seen in 30 years, but with more than 100 undergraduates declaring early, there are players who simply aren't ready for the league.
--- Former Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter is an “exciting” addition to the coaching staff who made a difference in his only season on alma mater Colorado State's staff. He said outside linebacker Jarvis Jones should especially benefit from working with Porter, just as the entire offensive line will be helped by new assistant Mike Munchak, the former Titans head coach.
--- The Steelers are “exploring different options” in the 2014 free agency class, but he wouldn't give any indication if they will be more active in free agency this year.
--- Players such as safety Ryan Clark are “free to have an opinion” – Clark said last week that multiple Steelers player smoke marijuana as pain relief and for stress – but it's not “the organization's opinion.”
--- The Steelers would never discriminate against a player such as Missouri linebacker Michael Sam because he is gay, and he will be evaluated the same as any other prospective player.
--- Having a franchise quarterback such as Roethlisberger is a huge plus, and “There's no one we'd rather have.” He indicated the Steelers probably won't look at drafting another quarterback this year, even though Roethlisberger will be 32.
“But he doesn't have 10 years (left),” Colbert said. “Two, three, five seasons? We don't know.”
--- He doesn't know if the Steelers will lose a draft pick for coach Mike Tomlin's sideline misstep in Baltimore that resulted in a $100,000 fine.