Re-signing Woodley is Steelers' top priority
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
There were 30 other NFL teams that would have loved to have been in the Pittsburgh Steelers' position a little over a week ago.
But now, coming off a 31-25 loss in Super Bowl XLV to the Green Bay Packers, the Steelers, like all NFL teams, find themselves entering an offseason of uncertainty.
With the league in all probability heading for a lockout March 4, nobody knows what the current labor situation will bring.
A lockout could mean there would be no free-agent period in the offseason.
There is a possibility that if a new collective bargaining agreement is not completed, and the owners end a lockout, free agents could be ordered back to work at 120 percent of their 2010 base salary.
For the Steelers, that means their potential free agents will find themselves in limbo, unable to sign with a new team, and essentially, without a job. That group includes linebacker LaMarr Woodley, cornerback Ike Taylor, offensive linemen Willie Colon, Doug Legursky and Jonathan Scott, kicker Shaun Suisham and punter Daniel Sepulveda.
Once a new CBA is in place, there could be a mad scramble by all 32 teams, whose only other means of player acquisition this offseason could be the draft.
Even the draft will be different. Without a new CBA, teams will not be permitted to sign any undrafted players, leaving another group of players in limbo.
One player who definitely will be back with the Steelers is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
A tearful Roethlisberger sat alone at his locker in the moments following the Super Bowl, and he was apologetic when he spoke to reporters, taking full blame for the defeat.
The Super Bowl loss was only Roethlisberger's third in 13 postseason starts. The other two times Roethlisberger has experienced defeat in the playoffs - in 2004 and 2007 - the Steelers have won the Super Bowl the following season.
To keep that steak alive and avoid the Super Bowl loser hangover - seven of the last 10 Super Bowl losers have failed to make the playoffs the next season - the Steelers must keep their nucleus of players intact and add some key components - mainly in the secondary.
Keeping Woodley and Taylor will be the top priorities.
Woodley, 26, is entering his prime and has 39 sacks in four seasons. Woodley made only $550,000 last season and the Steelers will use the franchise tag on him if they are unable to work out a new contract by Feb. 24.
Getting a deal with Taylor should be easier. While the 30-year-old is the Steelers' best cornerback and is coming off a solid season, Taylor's not an elite player. He likes playing in Pittsburgh and for head coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Taylor will likely take less money to stay with a team that offers him an opportunity to return to the Super Bowl.
Colon is coming off an Achilles' tendon injury but was considered the Steelers' best lineman before the injury. The Steelers dealt with his loss by signing 35-year-old Flozell Adams to a two-year deal to play right tackle. Adams will make $5 million next season, which might be more than the Steelers are willing to pay, particularly if they re-sign Colon at a bargain rate.
Legursky and Scott each started in the Super Bowl and did a credible job. With veteran backup Trai Essex also an unrestricted free agent, the Steelers will likely make a strong play to keep at least two of the three.