Offseason holds more questions than meet the eye for Steelers
December 21, 2013
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery says he wants to be a Steeler again next year.
The Steelers have their work cut out for them, and it begins after they play in Green Bay today and finish up with Cleveland next Sunday at Heinz Field.
Yes, they must decide between Jason Worilds and LaMarr Woodley. Yes, they will try to sign Ben Roethlisberger to a contract extension.
But they have a whole lot more to do than just that. Take their defensive line. Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood, their two starting ends before Cameron Heyward took over, do not have contracts for next season. Who plays the other end if they leave? Al Woods? He doesn't have one either and he would join them as an unrestricted free agent.
Then there is that productive group of wide receivers who have helped the Steelers approach numerous passing records. Two of their top three could be gone because Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery will become unrestricted free agents.
Cotchery, who has nine touchdown receptions as their No. 3 man, would love to come back.
"This is a good place to be," said Cotchery, 31. "I played a lot this year, I played a bunch. I'm just trying to win a championship, man. My mindset really is to do whatever I can to help this team get there. I want to do it here but ..."
Who knows if the Steelers will or can pony up to keep him? Will they try to sign Hood and/or Woods, or neither? And what about their safeties? Troy Polamalu will make $8,250,000 in the final year of his deal in 2014 and Ryan Clark's contract is up. So too is the contract of their No. 3 safety, Will Allen.
How about running back? They are safe at No. 1 with rookie Le'Veon Bell, but Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones, his two backups, both will be free after the season.
For the Steelers to avoid a third consecutive season out of the playoffs, they need to win the offseason.
looking at RB... I hope they keep Dwyer. You can tell by his emotion and effort...the light bulb has finally come on. In this league, you need 2 feature RB's. I hope he is one of them.
Madden: Even if playoff payoff hits, Steelers have much to change in off-season
Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2013
By Mark Madden Special to The Times
If you gamble, you know how difficult it is to hit a four-team parlay. It’s even tougher when you’re betting without a spread and need underdogs to hit.
Like Kansas City (9.5-point underdog) at San Diego. Like the Jets (6.5-point underdogs) at Miami. The Steelers need two road dogs to win (oh, you didn’t know?), and they need to beat visiting Cleveland while Baltimore loses at Cincinnati. If all that happens, the Steelers make the playoffs. Yippee.
Did I mention that Kansas City will rest a lot of regulars? Don’t blame the Chiefs. They’re the AFC’s No. 5 seed no matter what. The Steelers’ dilemma isn’t theirs.
The Steelers’ problems are many, and they are great.
The primary worry of Steelers’ fans shouldn’t be the realization of an implausible circumstance. It should be that coming close will further delay a rebuilding process that should have already started. That an 8-4 (or 7-5) finish after losing four straight to start the season will allow the Steelers’ organization to convince itself the team is close to legitimate contention.
It isn’t. That’s especially true on defense.
There are certain changes the Steelers should definitely look at no matter how Sunday turns out. Certain priorities should be adopted.
-- One man should be responsible for personnel decisions. GM Kevin Colbert is the best choice. But creating accountability is the main thing.
The Steelers say they make decisions as a team. That means nobody is ever to blame for bad ones. That spawns a culture where it’s easy to make mistakes.
-- Clean up their salary cap. SI.com’s Andrew Brandt wrote, “I don’t think there’s a team in the last three years that’s mortgaged the future as much as the Steelers.” Not good. Omar Khan, the Steelers’ Director of Football Administration, had previously handled the cap very precisely.
Khan didn’t suddenly get stupid. Blame this on ownership for mistakenly thinking a Super Bowl window was still open.
-- Gut the defense. That should have started last year. But the Steelers kept Ike Taylor and let Keenan Lewis go to New Orleans. Now the Steelers must be merciless, and it starts with LaMarr Woodley. Woodley has missed 14 games in three years since signing a six-year, $61.5 million deal in 2011. He has just 18 sacks in that time. He’s fat, ineffective, has a bad attitude and is too often hurt.
Cutting Woodley means $14 million in dead money cap-wise. But it sends a message worth every single penny.
-- Demand more from coaching. His absurd explanation aside, Mike Tomlin mangled the end of Sunday’s victory at Green Bay. You kneel, kick the field goal and squib the kickoff. Green Bay gets one Hail Mary. Game over. That’s not open to debate. That’s proper coaching in that situation. If scoring that touchdown was what’s best for the Steelers, why did Green Bay let them do it?
Tomlin is horrific at clock management. He needs to get much better, or a specialist must be hired and given final say on such decisions when appropriate.
Dick LeBeau should return as defensive coordinator. LeBeau hasn’t aged out. Much of his personnel has. Todd Haley will likely return as offensive coordinator. But is his scheme truly what’s best for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger? The stats say yes. A 7-8 record says otherwise. A deep threat is needed either way.
It’s tough to project who should be cut because of the cap issues, and because the Steelers should have started cleaning house last year. Too many changes would be better than too few.
The Steelers need to retool with an eye toward winning a Super Bowl. Any team can scrape into the playoffs. Having a chance after making them is what counts. Even if Sunday’s four-team parlay hits, how far can the Steelers go?
Free agencies will mean changes for the Steelers
By Alan Robinson
Published: Friday, Dec. 27, 2013
It wasn't a typical Friday for the Steelers.
Teammates walked from locker to locker collecting autographs for friends and relatives. Several players sat in small groups, knowing this might be the final time they gathered in this room to close a work week.
One out of every three players on this Steelers team becomes a free agent after the season ends — perhaps as soon as late Sunday afternoon — and they realized this might be one of their final times together.
Brett Keisel, the 35-year-old defensive end who is one of those free agents-to-be, offered some advice for players such as Jason Worilds, Ziggy Hood and Emmanuel Sanders, who are going through this for the first time.
“Just go out and understand you still have an opportunity to go out and play with your guys, even if it is the last time,” Keisel said. “You've got to make it count. There will be changes — there always are. The locker room is different after every year.”
Sanders uses the locker occupied last season by fellow wide receiver Mike Wallace, who left for a $60 million deal with Miami. Sanders won't get that kind of money but is likely to receive an offer the salary cap-restrained Steelers can't match. The Patriots tried to sign him earlier this year as a restricted free agent.
“Right now, I live for the moment,” Sanders said. “What happens in the offseason, happens. But I always wish nothing but the best to everyone, no matter what happens. I hope everyone gets put in the best situation they can be in.”
Sanders said he prefers to stay in Pittsburgh, but he realizes the market will dictate his value.
Worilds, who should benefit greatly from his career-high eight sacks this season, has said much the same thing.
“You've got to look out for yourself, especially because it doesn't come around very often,” Sanders said. “You've got to take care of your family. I've got a son on the way, and that's all I'm thinking about.”
To keep their season going, the Steelers not only must beat the Browns at Heinz Field, they need the Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers to lose. Sanders said he'll be watching the scoreboard Sunday to see how those games play out.
Jerricho Cotchery said one thing he won't be doing is watching the scoreboard and guessing where he might be playing next season, if it's not Pittsburgh.
“The reason I've been playing this long is my desire to win a championship, and that's what drives me every day,” said Cotchery, who is in his 10th NFL season. “That's how I got my contract the first time around. I wasn't thinking about it. I was just playing ball and having fun with it. I wasn't thinking about the money.
“When you spend too much time (on free agency), you can think circles around yourself. You spend too much time trying to figure out how the situation will play out, and it will drive you crazy. Any time my mind tries to go that way, it's ‘No, no, no.' ”