NFL Lockout: 5 Things the Pittsburgh Steelers Must Do When Work Resumes
The Pittsburgh Steelers, just like every other team, are anxious to get back to business as the lockout looks to be wrapping up in the next week or so. Teams will only have a limited amount of time before training camps are scheduled to begin, so a lot of business will happen in a very short amount of time.
Each team has a to-do list once league business resumes. With limited time to get everything done, it will be very interesting to see how each team gets started on the 2011 season.
Here are five things the Pittsburgh Steelers must do as soon as the lockout is lifted.
1. Give LaMarr Woodley His Payday
Sense of Urgency?
The Steelers have Woodley franchised this season, so this isn't one of those things they need to do on day one, but Woodley is a huge part of the defense and needs to be locked up for the long term. He's expecting that to happen, which is a great sign.
The Steelers may already have had a handshake agreement with Woodley when they placed the franchise tag on him. That was the rumor that went around town.
I would say a five-year pact would be about right for the outside linebacker. I'm not sure on money yet because the new salary caps haven't been announced. Under the old system, he would have likely received about $60 million.
2. Re-Sign Ike Taylor
Sense of Urgency?
This should be the first thing the team does once league business resumes.
The Steelers, without Taylor, are extremely thin at corner. They have no clear starter opposite Bryant McFadden and a ton of candidates with no experience.
I'd like to see the Steelers sign at least one other corner, but getting Taylor back is essential. With such a short time now between free agency and the start of the season, a lot of players will struggle with new playbooks. If teams can re-sign their own players, that will help them greatly.
Three or four years should do. I wouldn't go much longer.
Again, the money is hard to gauge, but the Steelers are going to have to make a competitive offer if they really want to keep Taylor. He's going to be sought after, so I'd expect something similar to what they went through with Ryan Clark last year.
3. Coach and Player Meetings
Sense of Urgency?
This is another important piece of the puzzle that will need to take place within a few days of the end of the lockout.
Rookies have yet to meet the coaches in person. Rookies, in most cases, have been working with other players. That's great, but it's no substitution for coaching from the actual coordinators.
Playbooks need to be discussed and dissected, plans need to be formed and workouts need to be organized by the teams to check on conditioning. There's a ton of work that needs to be done before training camps can commence.
The rookies are most essential. They need to find a way to fit into the team. Luckily, rookies don't usually play a role in Pittsburgh's plans, but on defense, that could change this season.
Once the rookies are settled, it's time to make sure conditioning hasn't fallen off and, if it has, to make up as much ground as possible before training camp opens. The last thing this team can afford is to have some of its aging veterans not physically ready for the long grind of a season.
4. Kicking Game Solutions
Sense of Urgency?
This is one of those concerns that's been on the back burner, but it's now important.
The Steelers get into the end zone regularly, but sometimes they come up short; they don't have anyone to close the deal at that point. The Steelers could look for someone like Josh Jasper out of LSU as an undrafted rookie, or they could look for a veteran guy. Either way, they need to get someone under contract to do the kicking.
The Steelers also don't have a punter under contract. They'll first have to check in on Daniel Sepulveda's recovery, then probably have to get someone else as competition for him if he's ready and to cover for him or replace him if he isn't. Time is of the essence.
I'm not really high on re-signing Shaun Suisham, but that should be among the fallback options at kicker. I'd target a guy like Matt Prater or David Akers over an expensive guy like Adam Vinatieri. Ultimately, they should try to land Jasper since he could be the best of the available bunch.
Punter is a little bit more murky.
Sepulveda's injury is a concern because he's now showing a bad history of ACL issues. If he's ready to go, I'd bring him back, but I wouldn't leave him alone. I'd bring in someone else, likely a rookie, to compete, then sit on the practice squad. I wasn't impressed with Jeremy Kapinos, so I wouldn't get too involved with trying to re-sign him.
5. Rookie Contracts
Sense of Urgency
This is huge.
Each team usually has a holdout or two after several months of negotiating—now teams will have a couple weeks.
Hopefully, they've been formulating plans in the meantime, but even if they have, agents are likely going to capitalize. This is likely to be a player's market because teams don't have a lot of time to put everything together.
The Steelers usually are pretty good at getting everyone under contract quickly, so they may be OK. Either way, this is something that needs to get done fast.
The best thing to do is work from top to bottom of the draft pool. They'll need their higher draft choices to contribute at least on special teams this season. Marcus Gilbert could even see some time on offense if he has a good camp or if there's another rash of injuries.
The guys at the end (as well as the undrafted free agents) are important too, but in a time crunch, they have to prioritize talks roughly the same way as they prioritized draft choices.