It happens to every club at some point, and it's quite remarkable that the Steelers have gotten this far before things have started to squeeze up. And truth be told, although it's improbable, that doesn't make the Steelers making a run at the playoffs 'impossible'.
A lot of opinions at the moment are "we need an OLB/WR/RB/OT/OG/NT etc". And yeah, to a degree, that is right. But in a number of these 'needs', the Steelers have already planted seeds for the future. Sean Spence, Cortez Allen, Mike Adams, Marcus Gilbert, Jason Worilds.... these guys were selected, on the most part, before they became 'needs'. And the Steelers will likely do the same again this draft, instead of being reactionary & drafting a WR in the 1st to replace Wallace, or a RB to replace Mendenhall.
Where are the 'future' needs on this team? Where have the Steelers not secured players for the future?
It'll be a tough season coming up. The test will likely be more on how the team competes, rather than the end result.
With the exception of BB, The Steelers have always drafted offensive skill players in the 1st round with intentions of them contributing from day 1 as far back as 1990 with Eric Green when the "need" arises. It is almost an exact science for them on that side of the ball. If they aren't starting year 1, it is the next year...But they still have major production in their rookie year if they aren't starting. That goes hand-in-hand with the philosophy on not spending in FA. When they are faced with a "need' on that side of the ball...It is addressed in the draft. The expectations are for them to start or contribute day 1. To be honest, the Steelers have been very fortunate lately with any offensive players in general contributing early regardless of the position.
On the other side...Because of contract commitments, depth, and the dreaded "learning DL system" theory... The Steelers tend to draft defensive players "In waiting". It has been the luxury of the Steelers to draft talent and let them learn on that side of the ball behind vets. The time has come for all the "In Waiting" players to sit at the table. Where there is no "in waiting" players behind aging vets, they will be addressed.
Defensively...I believe the Steelers are comfortable & confident in their DL. The starters & depth will all be in place. I feel the same about CB. Lewis will be their priority. ILB is a question mark. I don't think Foote will be back but I don't think the Steelers are concerned about a high pick there. Possibly in the 3-7 range. OLB seems to be the biggest concern everywhere...Maybe not at the top of the list for the Steelers though. I think all that will be left for the Steelers at OLB will be conversion DEs and the Steelers tend to draft them outside the 1st round. I also believe the smoke & mirrors game will be played because the Steelers feel they have a starter in waiting if Harrison is cut and depth behind them in Carter & Robinson. They won't be pressured in round 1 at OLB to jump on a coversion project. You know my feeling on Jones's and the only one I wouldn't label a "conversion project" at #17 would be Moore. Moore will be long gone. So that brings us to S. Safety is a possibilty especially if one of Clark or Polamalu is released.
Offensively...WR is definately a possibilty. I think that may be the highest probability if Wallace leaves which is what I think will happen. If Wallace leaves, a struggling running game will have to account for another guy in the box. I am a big fan of Wallace and hate to see him go. His departure will have the most impact on either side of the ball regardless of FA loss or cuts hands down. That will have to be addressed immediately because there is NOBODY on the roster that can pick up his production or opposed gameplanning. There is a lacking main ingredient in trying to turn around a struggling offense and it won't be "purchased" in FA. Burress & Cothchery are not the solutions either...They are role players. I don't expect Burress to be brought back until after the draft if at all. RB will become a concern if Mendy departs. Smart thing for him to do is sign a 1 year and increase his value. Don't know if that will happen. Don't like any RBs as a first round grade. TE needs to be addressed especially with Miller's status but I don't think any are worthy of first round consideration. OL is puzzling. Don't think you can take a G in the first based on what has happened over the last several drafts. If a premiere LT is there and you think Gilbert can play G at this level than maybe a LT. I just don't see the Steelers thinking OL at all in the 1st. That is my opinion.
Here's an interesting scenario. Assume Harrisson is cut. The restructuring / extensions take place to get the Steelers compliant under rule 51. Freeing up money to tender RFA and for the rookie pool.
Would you cut Colon, Clark, Keisel, Suisham, and Cotchery (Total 9.6 mil) to retain Lewis (5/40) & Wallace (5/50)?
Take into consideration possibly cutting Polamalu & Taylor (Total 15.2 mil) before 2014 season.
No to Clark and Keisel this year or cutting Troy, maybe next year. Keisel was our most productive D-lineman, when we have someone to take his place then that's a possibility.
Here is the projected cuts:
There may be more but probably no names who haven't contributed. Foote is on the bubble but I wouldn't cut him, especially if he agree's to a pay cut.
I would sign Lewis, and consider a trade with Taylor.
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert: “We never want to be in a position where we have to gut the team”
Submitted by 60 Max Power O Staff on February 14, 2013
Steelers’ general manager Kevin Colbert knows he has a daunting task in front of him. While many of the experts are predicting a mass exodus of veterans come March, Colbert believes he can keep the bleeding under control.
He thinks he can strike a balance by using creative thinking when it comes to the salary cap, then the Steelers can keep their top level talent, but Colbert admits some will have to go.
"Last year, we let go of significant players," Colbert said, via Albert Breer of NFL.com. "This year, that may or may not be the case. We never want to be in a position where we have to gut the team.
We want to compete every year. And this year, we weren't able to. We didn't get in the playoffs. And that was a failure.”
"But we want to avoid being in a position where we make that one-year, all-in run, then disappear."
As far as the guys you mentioned to cut Mundy, Hampton, Starks, Foster, Mendy, Wallace, Foote & Pope are all free agents. No money there to save. Maybe you didn't know they were FA and see the cap issue.
Cutting Harrison creates 5.1 mil cap space with 4.9 mil dead money. Cutting Colon creates 1.2 mil cap space with almost 6.5 mil of dead money. They will need more than that (6.3 mil) to tender RFA & sign Lewis even with all the proposed restructures. I agree 110% about retaining Lewis. Taylor has no trade value. If teams know we are shopping Taylor they know the situation and the Steelers would have to release him. We are talking about a 33 year old CB making 9.4 mil & 10.4 mil the next two seasons. For the numbers, Trading him creates 2.5 mil space with 6.9 dead money.
Is the March Massacre coming to the Steelers ?
Reading blogs and articles from the so called experts looks like its heating up to be just that.
I'm not going to assume this will hapen until it actually does, remember if they gut this team they better have players to step in and play at a high level or 8-8 will look good.
In a few weeks we'll have a better idea what course they take, I'd hate to see good players released for stumble bums to replace them.