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fordfixer
04-05-2009, 01:53 AM
Harris: Steelers' veterans may soon be free to go

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 19216.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/mostread/s_619216.html)

By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, April 4, 2009

There's a move under way to rebuild the Super Bowl XLIII champion Steelers.

In another year, you may not be able to tell the players without a scorecard.

Twelve starters are entering the final year of their contracts, led by two-time Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison, who is expected to sign a new deal before the 2009 opener.

Other players scheduled to become free agents after next season include tight end Heath Miller, receiver Hines Ward, nose tackle Casey Hampton, linebacker Larry Foote, running back Willie Parker, defensive end Brett Keisel, center Justin Hartwig, safety Ryan Clark, kicker Jeff Reed and tackles Willie Colon and Max Starks.

"When you have a championship team, you're going to have players and their agents looking for a higher value. They may not be amenable to doing a contract before seeing what the market will bear," said veteran player agent Ralph Cindrich.

Of those 12 starters, seven will be 30 and older next season.

That won't do.

The Steelers rarely award big contracts to their free agents older than 30 -- almost never, in fact -- so they will have to make an even bigger exception with Harrison, the NFL's reigning defensive player of the year who turns 31 next month.

Whether they also extend contracts to several other veteran free agents who will be 30 and older after next season remains to be seen.

Let the transition begin.

Being part of a championship team doesn't guarantee a roster spot in ensuing years. It doesn't guaranetee a new contract either.

The Steelers will sign their free agents as they see fit.

Their successful track record of building with draft picks makes it unlikely they will sign any of their potential free agents until after this month's draft.

"When a team's winning like the Steelers, their back's not against the wall to do anything desperate. Whatever they feel they're doing to win, they're going to keep doing," said agent Kenny Zuckerman, who represents former Steelers tackle Marvel Smith.

The Steelers failed to re-sign Smith, 30, who recently joined the 49ers.

"Teams that are built by the draft will definitely wait for the next draft before they make decisions on their veterans," Zuckerman said. "Players taken in this draft are going to replace a lot of those guys. The players they draft become starters."

The Steelers could have another reason for displaying patience regarding free agents. Players entering the final year of their contracts tend to perform better when a new deal is at stake.

The strategy worked for defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who signed a record contract with the Washington Redskins. Don't be surprised if it works for several of the Steelers as well.

"The key is whether they play hard going into the end like that. I don't think there's any question this team is a reflection of its leaders," said Cindrich, who represents Steelers defensive captain James Farrior. "These guys are going with the mentality of the team and that is to go (all-out)."

John Harris is a sports columnist for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached via e-mail or at 412-481-5432.

Oviedo
04-05-2009, 10:00 AM
I've said for the past couple of months that I fully expect to see 8-9 new players on the final 53 who weren't there last year. I don't see Tomlin as hanging on to veterans past their expiration dates the way that Cowher did.

The reality is that we need to get younger and cheaper to clear the cap space to retain the next generation of stars we want long term. That includes guys like Heath Miller, Lamar Woodley, Timmons, etc. The only way with the zero sum game salary cap you can do that is to shed higher priced salaries.

That means Hines and FWP need to take a cap friendly contract or prepare to be gone. They need a history lesson, if the team let Franco Harris walk then these two need to get a clue. Guys like Clark , Colon, Hampton, and Foote are probably as good as gone in 2010 if not sooner. The challenge is Max Starks. Without a viable replacement at LT we may just keep tagging him year after year.

Chavezz
04-05-2009, 11:03 AM
Ward will restructure IMO to a more incentive laden deal. I think Hampton will be gone. He didn't exactly endear himself to the coaching staff last year showing up so out of condition.

That's why I think we'll start rebuilding the dline this year. The 34 D is only as successful as the front 3 and we have no one in the pipeline. Hampton and Smith are all approaching the end of the line. Even keisel isn't a spring chicken anymore.

Oviedo
04-05-2009, 11:16 AM
Ward will restructure IMO to a more incentive laden deal. I think Hampton will be gone. He didn't exactly endear himself to the coaching staff last year showing up so out of condition.

That's why I think we'll start rebuilding the dline this year. The 34 D is only as successful as the front 3 and we have no one in the pipeline. Hampton and Smith are all approaching the end of the line. Even keisel isn't a spring chicken anymore.

I totally agree. I think you need to get two solid additions to both the OL and DL this year. One "inside guy" and one "outside guy" on both. That means a C/G and OT on the OL and a NT and DE on the DL. That IMO should be 4 of our first 6 picks with the other two being CB and WR.

AkronSteel
04-05-2009, 11:51 AM
I agree OV 100%......the Steelers need to address the trenches with at least 4 picks and like you said one outside and one inside on both sides of the ball. We have to find a future NT somewhere in this draft. I think the 3rd round is probably where the team will be able to do that. I like Terrance Taylor, Sammie Lee Hill and Myron Pryor more than just about any DT's in the draft because they fit the Steelers scheme better than anyone other than Raji in this draft. I think they should draft Mack in the 1st if available, the best CB available when they pick in the 2nd round, and then DT and OT with the next two picks. The team should be able to find a good quality 4th or 5th receiver with one of the picks in the 5th round, and there are alot of good DE prospects available in the later rounds that could come in and develop over a year or two. That's how I would like to see the draft go!

:2c

D Rock
04-05-2009, 12:26 PM
I agree OV 100%......the Steelers need to address the trenches with at least 4 picks and like you said one outside and one inside on both sides of the ball. We have to find a future NT somewhere in this draft. I think the 3rd round is probably where the team will be able to do that. I like Terrance Taylor, Sammie Lee Hill and Myron Pryor more than just about any DT's in the draft because they fit the Steelers scheme better than anyone other than Raji in this draft. I think they should draft Mack in the 1st if available, the best CB available when they pick in the 2nd round, and then DT and OT with the next two picks. The team should be able to find a good quality 4th or 5th receiver with one of the picks in the 5th round, and there are alot of good DE prospects available in the later rounds that could come in and develop over a year or two. That's how I would like to see the draft go!

:2c

Mack

Macho Harris/Jairus Byrd/Keenan Lewis/Kevin Barnes

3rd- OT...I think Kropog, Tupou, or Cadogan wuold need to be snagged in the third if still around and wont last til the end of the 4th. Dang that 3rd round comp pick would have been AWESOME.

4th round might have a handful of DTs go, and I agree that one of them should become a Steeler.

5th - I've watched Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood for four years. Both are better than Derrick Williams, but size will be an issue. Talent is not. Norwood is fundementally GREAT. Butler is a playmaker, but always seems to dive/jump to catch the ball and miss the opportunity for RAC yards. Outside of those two, I don't know much about any other WR, but WalterFootball has about 20 guys listed in the 5/6 range.

The comp pick should definitely be on someone capable of playing DE in a 3/4. The Steelers have failed on a ton of late round guys becoming a DE in recent years, but hopefully there is another Smith or Keisel in this draft and the FO finds them.

BURGH86STEEL
04-05-2009, 01:08 PM
Ward will restructure IMO to a more incentive laden deal. I think Hampton will be gone. He didn't exactly endear himself to the coaching staff last year showing up so out of condition.

That's why I think we'll start rebuilding the dline this year. The 34 D is only as successful as the front 3 and we have no one in the pipeline. Hampton and Smith are all approaching the end of the line. Even keisel isn't a spring chicken anymore.

I totally agree. I think you need to get two solid additions to both the OL and DL this year. One "inside guy" and one "outside guy" on both. That means a C/G and OT on the OL and a NT and DE on the DL. That IMO should be 4 of our first 6 picks with the other two being CB and WR.

I do believe that Hampton had been out of shape at camp for almost every year he has been in the league. Hampton had a pretty good year and probably has 3 good years left. I believe the determining factor will come down to how much money he wants to stay with the team.

Will the players be there for the Steelers to rebuild the Dline? In a perfect world or the early 90's, those players on the Dline would probably be there later in the draft. It is difficult to say with so many teams running the 3-4 now.

The reality of the situation is they will have to have a perfect draft and a lot of luck to get younger and fill all the positions on this team. The odds are against that happening. I doubt every draft pick makes the team. As is, I think the team has enough to compete for the SB this season.

TallyStiller
04-05-2009, 04:12 PM
Hampton has been mediocre for a couple of years running now. He'll be WAY too expensive for a passable two down player. Hoke filled in for him for most of a 15 - 1 campaign a few years back. He's done here after this year. Foote and FWP already have replacements on the roster. I expect us to draft the replacements for Clark and Hartwig this month.

I believe Hines finishes his career here. They'll resign Harrison, too, although Bruce Davis is on the roster if he asks too much - but both of those guys are heart and soul guys, like Farrior, and I see them being brought back. Heath gets resigned next after Harrison. I think there's a decent chance they resign one or both of Starks/Colon if reasonable deals can be worked out... and Jeff Reed stays. His Heinz Field kicking skills represent a unique skill set that would take years of experience to duplicate.

AngryAsian
04-05-2009, 09:41 PM
EVERY Steeler fan, who has half a brain has been screaming for a draft heavy in the trenches. A few years ago, when Peezy departed, it was our LB corps that was the most pressing need and here we are two years later, with the most talented LB squad in the NFL. I'm not concerned with the ensuing drafts, because Colbert and co. will most definitely go big and ugly, this year and next. Beside CB, we don't have any other positions (other than the trenches on both sides) that need real tooling up. As for saying bye bye to our veterans, that is the modern NFL, and if fans aren't geared up to possibly see favorite players depart, then they're delusional. Unlike many franchises around the league (Cincy, Cleveland, Washington...) where you have a speckled winning season here and there amid several strings of losing seasons, this franchise has done a fantastic job of staying competitive throughout the years without any real drop off, with the exception of one or two seasons in the past 2 decades. I have confidence that the FO and coaching staff know which core players to retain to insure that the Black and Gold keep the winning tradition going and the championships rolling.

fordfixer
04-05-2009, 10:58 PM
EVERY Steeler fan, who has half a brain has been screaming for a draft heavy in the trenches. A few years ago, when Peezy departed, it was our LB corps that was the most pressing need and here we are two years later, with the most talented LB squad in the NFL. I'm not concerned with the ensuing drafts, because Colbert and co. will most definitely go big and ugly, this year and next. Beside CB, we don't have any other positions (other than the trenches on both sides) that need real tooling up. As for saying bye bye to our veterans, that is the modern NFL, and if fans aren't geared up to possibly see favorite players depart, then they're delusional. Unlike many franchises around the league (Cincy, Cleveland, Washington...) where you have a speckled winning season here and there amid several strings of losing seasons, this franchise has done a fantastic job of staying competitive throughout the years without any real drop off, with the exception of one or two seasons in the past 2 decades. I have confidence that the FO and coaching staff know which core players to retain to insure that the Black and Gold keep the winning tradition going and the championships rolling.

Well said :Clap

steelblood
04-06-2009, 02:10 PM
Twelve starters are entering the final year of their contracts, led by two-time Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison, who is expected to sign a new deal before the 2009 opener.

Other players scheduled to become free agents after next season include tight end Heath Miller, receiver Hines Ward, nose tackle Casey Hampton, linebacker Larry Foote, running back Willie Parker, defensive end Brett Keisel, center Justin Hartwig, safety Ryan Clark, kicker Jeff Reed and tackles Willie Colon and Max Starks.



This also means that Ben, Aaron Smith, Woodley, Polamalu, Holmes, Mendenhall, Taylor, Gay, Timmons, and Farrior are signed for the next two years or more. So much of the core of our team is secure. Other lesser starters and role players like Kemo, Key Fox, Sweed, McHugh, etc. are also signed for at least two more years.

From the list of 2010 FAs, imho, the only players we can't afford to lose next year are Harrison and perhaps Starks. Both would be extremely difficult to replace through the draft. Hopefully, we'll reach terms with one of them on a new contract. Then, if the other is still playing well at the end of this season, they can be franchised for 2010 if necesseary. Heath should be retained because he is a young core player with very good blocking and good receiving skills. I don't think that will be a problem as even the best vet TEs make only 4-5 million per season. That leaves Clark, Hampton, Ward, Keisel, Hartwig, Colon, and Reed. These players would need to be replaced, but this draft and the next should yield enough players to take care of most of those spots if those players are not resigned. The others could be replaced through free agency. Probably, we'll retain a high character player or two like Ward or Clark because that type of vet savvy is really important. But, young players will continue to step up and take on vet roles on the field and the locker room.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it is an easy road for the Steelers. But, the good news is that this team sees what challenges lie ahead. They have two drafts to begin to . And, if there is a salary cap next year, we'll have $$ to spend on our own or other FAs with all the big contracts coming off the books after this season. The FO will have to have two good drafts and spend their money wisely.