Updates from Wednesday, Mar. 5
The Steelers announced that Troy Polamalu has signed a three-year contract to remain in Pittsburgh (via Burt Lauten of the Steelers)
The Pittsburgh Steelers are seeking ways to improve their situation in regards to the salary cap, which is usually bad news for high-priced veterans like Troy Polamalu. It appears the longtime Steelers safety is safe, however.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports the Rooney family is loyal to the 32-year-old defender and the franchise still views him as a key contributor on that side of the ball. In turn, the Steelers are looking at a couple different options to make sure he stays with the team:
One source said the Rooney family simply is too loyal and Polamalu has been two valuable.
Either the two sides will try to work out a restructured contract that will lower Polamalu's $10.88 million salary-cap figure for the coming season, or the Steelers could get the eight-time Pro Bowler to accept a pay cut.
The information is in line with comments team president Art Rooney II made back in January.
Polamalu is slated to count nearly $11 million against the cap for the 2014 season. Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review provided comments from Rooney about figuring out a way to restructure the deal so it works for both sides:
How we structure or restructure (Polamalu's contract) is something we will look at in the next few months. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, but I certainly expect Troy will be one of the pieces to that puzzle. ... He's obviously been one of the great Steelers of all time.
Nearly two months later a renewed deal still isn't complete, but the latest information from Schefter suggests the Steelers' mindset hasn't changed. They still want to keep Polamalu, it's just a matter of finding common ground.
What should the Steelers do if an agreement isn't reached with Polamalu?
After the Steelers secured Jason Worilds for the 2014 season on Tuesday, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette commented on the team's salary-cap situation of recent years:
The next steps for the Steelers will look like a dance that has become all too familiar for them lately — restructuring contracts to save 2014 salary-cap room, terminating veteran contracts, asking for pay cuts and working out contract extensions that also create space in their 2014 salary cap.
They need that space because, at the moment, they are approximately $10 million above where they need to be for salary-cap compliance by 4 p.m. Tuesday. That takes into account their top 51 salaries, the only ones that count in the offseason (their entire roster is closer to $14 million above the cap).
Time is starting to become an issue, though. The ESPN report notes Pittsburgh is currently projected to sit $15.5 million above the salary-cap line. It must get back under the threshold by next Tuesday and restructuring deals like Polamalu's would go a long way in making that happen.
After an injury-plagued 2012 campaign, the safety bounced back in 2013. He played in all 16 games, racking up 69 tackles, five forced fumbles, two interceptions and two sacks. That versatility is what has made him such a valuable asset over the years.
If the Steelers are totally against letting him go they have to hope he's willing to restructure. Otherwise, their task over the next week to get under the cap is going to become a lot more difficult. He's one of five players on the roster with a 2014 cap hit above $10 million, according to Spotrac.
It will also be interesting to see if the team's tune changes should the deadline approach without a restructured deal for Polamalu in place. He's still a major part of the defense, but something needs to give by next Tuesday.
As for now, it sounds like releasing Polamalu is not an option the Steelers are considering.