The Steelers are taking the same approach in negotiations with another valuable offensive lineman that they took last year with guard Alan Faneca. Some would say it's no approach at all. It could be considered a wait-and-wait approach.
Faneca signed with the New York Jets as a free agent this year, reluctantly leaving after 10 years and seven Pro Bowls in Pittsburgh at just 30 years old. Left tackle Marvel Smith had one year left on his contract and there have been no negotiations toward a new one.
It looks like the Steelers are prepared to let another good, veteran offensive lineman go because they can't or won't pay market value.
The Steelers did at least make Faneca an offer more than a year ago, but it insulted him more than anything and there were no more talks until a last-minute conversation between Faneca and Kevin Colbert, the team's director of football operations, at the end of training camp.
Once the regular season starts, the Steelers have a long-standing policy that they end negotiations for any contract extensions. There's still time for them to do something with Smith, who will make about $4.5 million in the final year of his contract.
Smith took a different approach this spring than did Faneca; he practiced with his teammates, although he did miss two weeks when his son was born in California. Faneca skipped all but a required minicamp last year in protest of his contract situation.
"To me, if it's going to happen, it's going to happen," said Smith. "It's not something I can worry about, for the most part. I love football. Any opportunity I get to play, whether it's in the offseason or not, that's what I plan on doing."
Smith, a second-round draft choice in 2000, moved into the starting lineup as a rookie at right tackle and became the starting left tackle in 2003. He's made one Pro Bowl and should command a fat contract as a free agent, if it gets to that.
"Wouldn't Marvel be fun going to free agency with?" said agent Ken Zuckerman, a partner in the same agency as Faneca's agent, Rick Smith.
—Coach Mike Tomlin waved off Tuesday's OTA and took his team bowling instead. Tomlin said he wants it to become a tradition.
"It was awesome," nose tackle Chris Hoke said, "just a great experience."
—Longtime Steelers player personnel director Dick Haley, 70, took a job as a consultant for the Miami Dolphins. It reunited him with Bill Parcells. Haley, who left the Steelers to join the New York Jets in 1992, worked with Parcells there from 1997 to 2000. Haley worked for the Steelers for 20 years.
—Former Steelers defensive end Dwight White was buried in Pittsburgh Wednesday. White, part of the famous Steel Curtain front four, died last Friday from a blood clot that developed after he had back surgery May 12.
—Tomlin would not say why Pro Bowl NT Casey Hampton has missed several weeks of OTAs, or whether he was working out on his own, with a personal trainer, etc. Hampton was scheduled to make an appearance for teammate Tyrone Carter for a charity event in Pompano Beach, Fla., Saturday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The schedule is what it is. We tend to focus on things we can control. We don't make the schedule, we play it." — Mike Tomlin on having the toughest schedule in the NFL in 2008.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
MEDICAL WATCH: DE Travis Kirschke had recent ankle surgery to clean loose particles out. He should be OK by training camp.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None
TRANSITION PLAYER: OT Max Starks (tendered at $6.895M; signed tender April 21).
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
—LB Marquis Cooper (not tendered as UFA).
—RB Verron Haynes (not tendered as UFA).
—FB Dan Kreider (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
—LB Keyaron Fox: UFA Chiefs; $645,000/1 yr, $40,000 SB; 2008 cap: $485,000.
—C Justin Hartwig: FA Panthers; $3.725M/2 yrs, $975,000 SB.
—RB Mewelde Moore: UFA Vikings; $4.95M/3 yrs, $1.35M SB.
—DE Nick Eason: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
—OT Trai Essex: RFA; $927,000/1 yr.
—LB Andre Frazier: Not tendered as RFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
—LB Arnold Harrison: ERFA; terms unknown.
—G Chris Kemoeatu: RFA; $1.47M/1 yr.
—DE Travis Kirschke: Potential UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
—OT Max Starks: TFA; $6.895M/1 yr.
—LS Greg Warren: RFA; $2.3M/3 yrs, $395,000 SB.
—WR Nate Washington: RFA; $1.47M/1 yr.
—G Alan Faneca: UFA Jets; $40M/5 yrs, $21M guaranteed.
—LB Clark Haggans: UFA Cardinals; $1.5M/1 yr, SB unknown.
—LB Cliff Kriewaldt (released/failed physical).
—CB/KR Allen Rossum (released).
—QB Brian St. Pierre: UFA Cardinals; 1 yr, terms unknown.
—TE Jerame Tuman (released).
—WR Cedrick Wilson (released).