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Old 04-20-2009, 11:11 PM   #1
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Default Steelers to face some tough decisions

Steelers to face some tough decisions
By Scott Brown
Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wide receiver Hines Ward says he wants to retire as a Steeler.

Nose tackle Casey Hampton, who's also entering the final year of his contract, says he wants to stay in Pittsburgh beyond the 2009 season.

How many veterans such as Ward and Hampton that the Steelers can accommodate remains to be seen.

The Steelers are near the salary cap. Finding the wiggle room that would allow them to sign key players to multiyear contracts won't be easy, especially given the uncertain labor situation.

The Steelers have such limited room under the salary cap that they released running back Gary Russell last week to make room for backup quarterback Charlie Batch, director of football operations Kevin Colbert said Monday.

"There could be further deletions as we move forward," Colbert said, "depending on how our cap situation evolves."

The highest 51 salaries count against the cap until a 53-man roster is set at the end of preseason practice.

Among the contracts the Steelers still have to fit under the salary cap, which will be $127 million in 2009, are those given to players they take in the NFL Draft this weekend.

The Steelers, who signed outside linebacker James Harrison last week to a six-year, $51.175 million contract, are hoping to reach a multiyear agreement with offensive tackle Max Starks that would give them salary cap relief. Starks is due $8.45 million this season.

When the owners opted out of the collective bargaining agreement last year, it triggered certain restrictions that limit how creative teams can be when negotiating or restructuring contracts. One restriction doesn't allow for base salaries to increase by more than 30 percent a year.

A new CBA doesn't appear to be imminent because the NFL Players Association didn't elect a new executive director until last month.

As such, the timing of having so many players heading into the final year of their contract 10 starters from last season fall into that category isn't exactly ideal for the Steelers.

Two players, Ward and Hampton, were among the Steelers who took part in the team's first offseason practice yesterday.

Ward, who had offseason shoulder surgery and played on a sprained knee in Super Bowl XLIII, said he's easing back into workouts. He expects to be 100 percent by the start of training camp.

Even at 33, Ward said he still has some good years left in him, and the 12-year veteran left no doubt that he wants to finish his career where it started.

"I don't want to put on another uniform," said Ward, who holds most of the Steelers' major receiving records. "I want to go down as one of the better wideouts to wear the black and gold. If the two parties can come together and agree to that, I'm all for it."

Hampton, 31, says he feels the same way.

The nine-year veteran said signing Harrison and inside linebacker James Farrior, who agreed to a multiyear deal last year, shows that the Steelers will pay valued veterans.

"The myth is kind of changing of not paying guys over 30," Hampton said.

Then, he added with a hearty laugh, "Just look out for me one time."

Unfinished business?

With essentially no room left under the salary cap, the Steelers may have to make some tough decisions regarding which veterans they sign to multiyear contracts. Here's a look at the key players that are heading into the final year of their contracts:


Player Pos.

Willie Colon OT

Justin Hartwig C

Heath Miller TE

Max Starks OT

Hines Ward WR


Player Pos.

Ryan Clark FS

Larry Foote ILB

Casey Hampton NT

Brett Keisel DE


Player Pos.

Jeff Reed K

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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Old 04-21-2009, 02:59 AM   #2

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Default Re: Steelers to face some tough decisions

That is a scary good list of players, but when you boil it all down, the only thing that matters is #7 is behind center.

Obviously some of those players will be resigned ... if we are able to keep Reed/Miller/Ward and two out of Foote/Clark/Hampton/Kiesel/Starks ... I would call it a success.

Reed will get a fair contract, he is a beast at Heinz field and nobody in the league can kick here like he can.

Miller needs no explanation

Ward is more a face of this franchise than Faneca and Porter combined. He wants to stay, it will work out.

Hampton wants to stay as well, Even him playing at 80% of what he used to in his prime still puts him in the top half of the league for NT's. I can't imagine he's going to come into camp outta shape this year either, coach T stopped that nonsense real fast.

Clark has been the ying to troys yang. Our secondary was poop without him last year. I dunno what kind of market there is for him. but he sure has made a name for himself in Pitt. I would hate to see another Chris Hope type talent hit the market and play for the gah damn Pats.

Kiesel could be replaced with any number of picks in rounds 1-3 this year. The only problem is, the depth behind him is hardly anything to be desired

Foote- It's very easy to say, ah timmons will replace him fine, and I am not one to defend his less than spectacular play on the field. HOWEVER, he could start on about 20 teams in this league, knows lebeaus system, is relatively young, and you can never have enough good LB's in a 3-4 defense.

Colon Hartwig and Starks all have one year ... they decide their own fate, I don't see anything out of either three that couldnt be replaced.

Hartwig gave up the most sacks of any center in the league.

Colon is a false start machine that should be playin guard.

Starks is just fortunate to cash in because LT's are scarce in this league. He has shown flashes, but inconsistencies at the position that protects the quarter backs blindside are a serious problem.
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Old 04-21-2009, 03:45 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers to face some tough decisions

Miller and Ward are the big names on that list I would like to see Reed stay as well. I guess we will have to wait and see.
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Old 04-21-2009, 06:00 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers to face some tough decisions

Of that list we need to sign only 4 and haope we draft well,
Ward will be to this team what Bettis was, taking less money to stay
We absolutely have to sign Heath
We absolutely have to sign Clark
I am sure Reed will stay as well

As for the rest I think Starks realizes he is not worth 8 mil, so why extend the contract (this hurts us against the cap)
I love Foote, but he is expendable
I am sure Hampton will stay
Colon and Hartwig, see ya especially if we draft a center
Hopefully Kiesel will realize what he has here and stays but with more 3-4 teams coming out of the dirt it will be hard to keep him after this year.
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Old 04-22-2009, 07:39 PM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers to face some tough decisions

Rumor has it that Foote might be a cap casualty. I have personally thought that Foote plays solidly, but is too slow of foot once a fast scat back type hits the backfield. He can't stay up with them. Timmons may not be quite there, but he is someone I think will take Foote's job away regardless.

Fanball/NFL Newsbreakers had this to say today.

Foote could be cut? The News
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believes that Larry Foote could be a cap casualty. Our View
Foote is slated to make $2.885MM in 2009, and could be expendable with Lawrence Timmons capable of supplanting him as a starter at inside linebacker. Cutting Foote could free up money to sign their upcoming draft picks.

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Old 04-23-2009, 09:23 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers to face some tough decisions

how bout we do that trade to Detroit now instead of simply cutting Foote...I'd at least like to get SOMETHING for who will be one of the best Defensive players in Detroit. They gotta have something we would want right? Or at least draft pics?
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Old 04-23-2009, 09:31 AM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers to face some tough decisions

I believe Ward's cap hit is over 6 million this coming season. Work out an extension and get some cap relief
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Old 04-23-2009, 09:56 AM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers to face some tough decisions

Colon will be an RFA so no need to worry there.

Aside from Heath and Hines, these guys are potentially replaceable.

Replacing Keisel and Clark will be the most challenging. Clark has really become a force lately. Whoever steps in will need a year in the system to come even close. Keisel hasn't exactly been a blockbuster at DE but DE talent is getting thin with 10 teams running the 3-4.

I love Reed but he's seriously just a kicker. Hope he doesn't move on to freakier pastures.
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Old 04-23-2009, 12:01 PM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers to face some tough decisions

Keisel should be resigned and him Smith and Hampton can show the Young n's how its done.
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Old 04-23-2009, 12:50 PM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers to face some tough decisions

This is stupid. You always hear about us needing to sign all these guys an having no salary cap space to do it, but at the same time all that jabbering completely ignores how much cap space will be freed up simply by the contracts of those very same players expiring.

Take the combination of Ward, Miller, Hampton, Keisel and Foote. That's more than $28 million in cap space that we get simply because their contracts expire, and we can use that toward re-signing them or anyone else. If we're smart and let Parker and Starks walk, that's another $13 million. Plus another $2.5 million we're still paying that POS Mahan. Then another $10-$15 million that we should see as the cap increases from one year to the next.

So really, the bottom line is that we've got more than $50 million to try and sign four or five key guys, one of whom (Miller) might even be a restricted free agent anyway. That looks pretty simple to me, as long as we don't waste it all giving huge raises to mediocre linemen for no reason.

Also, does any of this even matter? Isn't next year supposedly going to be uncapped? Which would mean we don't need to worry about any of that type of shit?
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