Steelers report: Inside slant
The Sports Xchange
Feb. 17, 2011
The Steelers, a team that normally moves slowly and cautiously in free agency, has also taken that approach with their own players whose contracts run out in two weeks.
The only Steelers' player known to have had any kinds of talks since the Super Bowl about a new contract is offensive tackle Jonathan Scott. He started the final 11 games, including the post-season, for injured Max Starks at left tackle. Scott came from Buffalo as a free agent last year and signed a one-year deal.
He's the type of free agent they believe they might be able to re-sign at a reasonable price before the league goes into lockdown.
Their top free agents, though, have not received as much as a phone call from the Steelers. They include linebacker LaMarr Woodley, cornerback Ike Taylor and offensive tackle Willie Colon. Woodley's people expect him to receive the franchise tag next week and that might be the only move Pittsburgh makes for a while.
They have 15 players that could become unrestricted free agents under the old rules of a collective bargaining agreement.
Woodley would earn about $10 million in 2011 as Pittsburgh's franchise player, but the Steelers would like to sign him to a long-term deal the way they did with Starks in 2009 after they tagged him as their franchise player.
Woodley earned only $550,000 last season, his fourth and third as their starting left outside linebacker. He and Colon fell victims of the uncapped year in 2010 when the rules changed.
Before last year, players could become unrestricted free agents after four seasons, provided their contracts expired. That changed to six years last year and that affected Colon greatly. He lost out on a potential long-term contract or as a free agent. Instead, Colon was restricted and signed a one-year tender for $2.198 million, then was lost for the season when his Achilles ruptured in June.
Woodley fell victim to the new 30-percent rule that went into effect in the uncapped year because even though the Steelers would have liked to sign him a year ago to a new deal, they would have been limited to giving him only 30-percent raises above his $550,000 salary each year. The alternative was to give him a whopping signing bonus and they were unprepared to give him that, which would have run at least $25 million and probably more.
So Woodley played at a salary far below his worth and the Steelers will make that up to him in a new contract, in the meantime guaranteeing him that he will earn at minimum $10 million in 2011 provided there is a season.
The Steelers also would have a transition tag available to them and they could use that, say, to keep Taylor.
But they are not expected to do so and remain confident that even after free agency begins - if indeed it does at all - they will be able to re-sign their best cornerback.
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Steelers report: Notes, quotes
The Sports Xchange
Feb. 17, 2011
--Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has signed another one-year contract with the Steelers, ending unfounded speculation that he would either retire or coach another team's defense in 2011. LeBeau has said all along that he intended to remain with the Steelers as long as they still wanted him.
--Ryan Clark has ripped into the NFL for its "greed" regarding the rip-offs associated with the Super Bowl and for the lack of progress in getting a new CBA. Clark is the team's player rep.
I'm talking about the same people that want to file a claim because they say we're not negotiating right, we want to take a billion off the top, we want to make us pay for running the football team, the same people that say we want the CBA to expire when we're not going to have any insurance. Those people. Those bright people. Those so compassionate, sympathetic, considerate human beings that decided when you built this building which is supposed to be the most spectacular in the world which holds enough people to have an exciting Super Bowl already - but you feel the need to build more seats and put more seats, and not let them pass inspection. And also you're so considerate and such a sweetheart that you decide not to inform people before the game, so you have people driving from Pennsylvania, driving from Wisconsin, only to realize that you don't have seats. But you know? Those are people. All those people get into heaven, so we'll see."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"I'm not big on going to OTAs and all that anyway now that I'm going into my 10th year. I mean, they can postpone it if they want." - S Ryan Clark on the looming lockout.
Steelers report: Strategy and personnel
The Sports Xchange
Feb. 17, 2011
RB Frank Summers, a fifth-round draft pick of the Steelers in 2009, signed a contract with the San Diego Chargers as a free agent. He was on Pittsburgh's practice squad in 2010. The Steelers re-signed S Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, another member of their practice squad in 2010.
Coach Mike Tomlin is searching for a secondary coach and is reportedly interviewing former Titans defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil for the job.
There have been reports that LaMarr Woodley expects to be "franchised" but the Steelers may be reluctant to do that, first of all because they do not want to pay him more than $10 million that would require in 2011. Woodley may just be too expensive for them and they did draft Jason Worilds on the second round last year as an outside linebacker and he could step in for Woodley if he leaves as a free agent.
That may be their only decision before March 4 because they are a team of patience and with no CBA it requires even more patience this year.
1. Cornerback: Ike Taylor can become a UFA but even if they re-sign him, they need at least one more good corner because they do not have another good corner and the good passing teams exploited that the past season, including Green Bay in the Super Bowl.
2. Offensive tackle: Their two starters both were hurt and had surgeries - Max Starks (neck) and Willie Colon (ruptured Achilles). If both return in good health, the need eases but there is no guarantee they will and Colon will be a UFA. Flozell Adams will turn 36 and he's due a $5 million salary. The others are not deemed competent fulltime starters.
3. Defensive line: Ziggy Hood, drafted in 2009, played well for injured Aaron Smith but the Steelers need to find another starter-in-waiting either for NT Casey Hampton, who will be 34 before the start of next season, or DE Brett Keisel, who will be 33.
4. Linebacker: LaMarr Woodley may leave as a UFA, which would leave his spot to rookie second-round pick Jason Worilds but they have no backups on the outside and James Harrison will be 33 in May. It's time to get another linebacker-in-waiting.
LB James Harrison had scheduled "minor" lower back surgery postponed on Monday because of a fever. The surgery will be rescheduled.