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Old 03-12-2010, 03:50 AM   #1
Galax Steeler
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Default Steelers Team Report

INSIDE SLANT

Pittsburgh has approached free agency as it has in the past. There has not nor will there be any major signings, and those who overpriced themselves on their own team were allowed to enter the market as free agents.

Actually, only one player really overpriced himself and that was free safety Ryan Clark(notes). They wanted to sign him, but his idea of what he was worth and their willingness to pay were not anywhere near each other.


They already are paying Troy Polamalu(notes) an average of $6.5 million a year with his cap number over $8 million in 2010 and they are not about to sink more than $6 million into their other safety.

They signed five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton(notes) and put the franchise tag on Jeff Reed(notes). Kevin Colbert, their director of football operations, announced that all others would be permitted to go into the market and if they do not find something to their liking, the Steelers might like to have some of them back.

Among those they might want back is one of two veteran defensive ends, Travis Kirschke(notes) or Nick Eason(notes). Aging cornerback Deshea Townsend(notes) could be another, especially since he has played some free safety and they need help there. Townsend has played 12 seasons in Pittsburgh and has established roots there and would love to stay.

The Steelers are notorious for not only starting slowly in free agency but for completely ignoring any of the bigger names or top-tiered free agents and this year is no different. They signed no one of note last season and little the year before. They did sign starting center Justin Hartwig(notes) in 2008 but only after the Atlanta Falcons had cut him.

This year they’ve signed free agent WRs Arnaz Battle(notes) and Antwaan Randle-El to three-year deals, adding depth to their receiving corps. Battle, a former 49er, was a UFA. Randle-El, who played his first four seasons with Pittsburgh, was cut by Washington after four seasons with the Redskins.

The Steelers’ last significant signing was free safety Ryan Clark in 2006 and before that halfback Duce Staley(notes) in 2004 and linebacker James Farrior(notes) in 2002. Those are three significant signings in the past eight years, so little is expected of them as the first week of free agency winds down.

They have gambled in their secondary by not signing Clark or Townsend and placing only a low tender on RFA starting cornerback William Gay(notes). Granted, Gay did not play well last season and ended up being replaced by Townsend at the end but he did well splitting time with Bryant McFadden(notes) in 2008, so much so that they did not make a big play to keep McFadden from leaving as a free agent.

Gay is young, spunky and in the past two seasons has had one good one and one bad one. He might fit better as a nickel back and even there, with more demands for cover corners in the league, someone might see a fifth-round draft choice for him a bargain or at least worth a try.

That also could be the case with tight end Matt Spaeth(notes), although he would cost a team a third-round pick as a RFA. The Steelers use Spaeth in a way that is puzzling. He is a 6-foot-7 target who has been virtually ignored in their passing game and used primarily as a blocker. When they do throw to him, he’s been capable but they prefer to throw to No. 1 tight end Heath Miller(notes). Spaeth, though, is not much of a blocker due to his size.

If another team does sign him, it would be toward making him a pass-receiving tight end, which is what he was when he won the 2006 Mackey Award after catching 47 passes for 564 yards and four touchdowns at Minnesota. He caught five passes for the Steelers last season.

NOTES, QUOTES

• Mike Tomlin signed a four-year contract with an option year when the Steelers hired him in 2007, a contract similar to what Ken Whisenhunt signed in Arizona. Now that the Cardinals have doubled Whisenhunt’s average salary on a new deal, attention has been turned toward the Steelers to see what, if anything, they do for Tomlin. Both sides have declined comment.

• Whisenhunt took what many believed was a subtle shot at Tomlin, who got the job Whisenhunt wanted with the Steelers in 2007.

“If you look at an organization like Pittsburgh, where you lose a Bill Cowher and the next coach comes in and a lot of elements were in place that allowed it to continue and be successful, certainly that would be attractive to a head coach,” Whisenhunt said at the NFL scouting combine. “And they went on and won a Super Bowl. There were a lot of questions about Arizona that have been answered, with the new stadium, could they win if they had a plan. And I think we’ve showed that to a degree.”

• A judge dismissed charges of simple assault and resisting arrest against Steelers K Jeff Reed, accused of raising his fists at a Pittsburgh police officer last fall when ordered back in his vehicle as police dealt with a teammate. Reed must perform 40 hours of community service and if he does so two summary charges of disorderly conduct and public drunkenness against him likely will be dropped. The Steelers made Reed their franchise player two weeks ago.

• SS Troy Polamalu missed the final seven games of the season with a torn PCL (following an earlier sprained MCL) and then left Pittsburgh to work out in California, as he did the previous two offseasons.

“We’re not concerned about that,” director of football operations Kevin Colbert said of Polamalu’s readiness for 2010. “Troy is a give-it-all type player. Injuries can happen. He is on the road to recovery from his knee injuries. That’s going to happen. We’re not going to sit there and worry about Troy being available because it can happen to anyone.”

Quote To Note: “If you have a great pass rush, you might be able to get by with a lesser defensive backfield.”—Kevin Colbert, director of football operations.

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slu...pe=team_report
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