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Pittsburgh Steelers: Trimming the Fat and Adjusting the Roster for the Future

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IJuly 20, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers: Trimming the Fat and Adjusting the Roster for the Future

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    With the new CBA for the NFL about to be agreed upon, NFL teams are going to be in a rush to not only understand the rules of the new CBA, but to get their players under contract as soon as possible.

    I am going to take a few minutes to do the Steelers a favor.  Here is every move they need to make, not only to get under the league mandated $130 million dollar salary cap (estimated at this point.  No one knows for sure, but it will be between $120 million and $135 million, so I am going to go with $130).

    The new rules also state that every team MUST spend at least 90% of that money on every given year, so there is no time to be cheap.

    Currently, according to yardbarker.com, the Steelers sit at $129, 845,000.  That is only $155,000 from the salary cap. There are rookies that need to be signed, and free agents that need to be brought in. That means, that number is going to need to be trimmed.

Players to Be Released

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    As I stated in a previous article, there are some players on the Steelers roster that are simply not worth the money that they are scheduled to be paid in 2011. Some of them have slid down the depth chart, while others do not have the ability they used to.

    Either way, the following players are probably going to be cut prior to the beginning of the regular season, or have their contracts reworked for a MUCH lesser number.

    Antwaan Randle El - $2 million dollars.

    Larry Foote - $2.4 million dollars

    Will Allen - $1,260,000

    Arnaz Battle - $1,038,000

    By releasing these players, the Steelers salary would become $123,147,000.  This would put the Steelers almost $7 million under the salary cap.

Players to Be Re-Structured

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    Some players that are on the Steelers roster are still valuable to the team, but they are not worth the money they are currently set to make.

    The following players need to have their cap number reduced, so that the team can make the moves necessary to be successful long into the future.

    Aaron Smith

    Smith is currently scheduled to make $4.5 million dollars. There is no questioning that Smith has been an amazing player for his time in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, in the NFL, this is a "what have you done for me lately" league. Over the last two seasons, Smith has missed a total of 21 games.

    Ziggy Hood did a great job at replacing Smith in 2010, and his time to take over is just about here. Smith needs to take a pay cut to about $1.5 million dollars, or he needs to be shown the door.  As a free agent, Smith would not make more than that, so he should be happy to accept it.

     

    James Farrior

    James Farrior has been the Captain of the Steelers defense for the better part of the last decade. He has not only been the leader on the field, but in the locker room as well. the problem with Farrior is, he is getting old, and is no longer able to be the player he was during passing downs.  If you are being honest, you might even consider him a liability in pass coverage.

    That being said, he is still worth keeping around for short yardage and goal line situations, but with a salary of $2.85 million, he simply isn't worth that type of money.

    Since Farrior is only going to be playing half the downs, then he needs to be paid half his salary. Since he has been such a leader for so long, I would pay him $1.5 million for this season.

     

    Brett Keisel

    The other anchor of the Steelers defensive line. Keisel made a career on the opposite side of Aaron Smith, but there was never really a question of which one was better. Keisel was always second to Smith, because honestly, Smith was that much better.

    That being said, Keisel is in the same boat as Smith. Only, Smiths replacement (Ziggy Hood) is already able to replace him, while Keisels replacement (first round pick, Cameron Hayward) is not ready to step in and be the full time starter his rookie season.

    It would be great to have Keisel to stay with Smith and train the future with Hood and Hayward, but with a salary over $3 million, he is simply costing too much money, especially if Aaron Smith is going to take less.

    I would give Keisel the same $1.5 million that I am giving Smith, and no more. 

     

    Chris Kemoeatu

    When Kemoeatu was a free agent two years ago, the New York Jets tried everything they could to lure him from the Steelers. Looking back on it, many Steelers fans believe they should have simply let him go.

    Though Kemo has not been a player that is going to make Steelers fans forget Alan Faneca, he has still been a decent player, and has had some very good games.

    Still, a salary of $2,973,000 is too much for a player that the Steelers could be replacing in the next two years.

    Kemo still needs to make good money, but a slight pay cut is in order in this instance, down to $2 million.

     

    Max Starks

    In the NFL, there is no position, other than QB, that is more important than LT. The person that is responsible for protecting the blind side of your $100 million dollar ball thrower needs to be paid to keep him upright.

    Ben Roethlisberger has never had that type of protection. Max Starks has done a decent job, but is not worth anywhere near the $5,140,000 that he is making.

    Add to that, Starks is coming off a serious neck injury. At this point, no one even knows if Starks is going to be able to return to the field, let alone be the player he used to be. Even though the player he used to be was never that great in the first place.

    Starks should be making no more than $3 million for this year, at least until the Steelers know he is healthy again.

     

    Hines Ward

    (I can almost feel the rage of some Steelers fans as I write this)

    There was a day when the Steelers had to make a choice, Hines Ward or Plaxico Burress. They chose Ward, and paid him a decent salary at the time. One that was about $4 million in total dollars more than Plaxico got with the Giants.

    The Steelers made the right decision, as Ward went on to become the Super Bowl MVP, while Burress went on to shoot himself in the leg and go to prison.

    Wards best days are in his rear view mirror now, and he is not worth the $3 million he is scheduled to make this year.

    With Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown both better players (TODAY) than Ward is (TODAY), and understanding that Ward is going to have a diminished role in the offense, I think Ward should accept a pay cut to $1.5 million.

     

    This brings the Steelers salary to $114, 184,000.  Almost $16 million under the cap.

LaMarr Woodley

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    As the Steelers Franchise player, LaMarr Woodley gets his own slide.

    The Steelers franchise tagged Woodley prior to the CBA mess, and wanting to stay with the Steelers, Woodley signed the tender prior to the lockout.

    That means, the Steelers own the rights to Woodley for the 2011 season, and he is scheduled to make $10 million dollars because of it.

    The Steelers want to keep Woodley long term for obvious reasons, and Woodley has already stated that he grew up a Steelers fan, and wants to stay with the club.

    To make this deal work out, I think the Steelers need to give Woodley a contract that is just a little bit better than the one they gave James Harrison a few years ago. Woodley is younger, and will be the cornerstone to the Steelers defense for the next 5-7 years.

    Woodley should get a contract for six years (same duration as Harrisons) and $55 million dollars ($3 million more than Harrison).

    The signing bonus should be in the $15 million dollar range, which would put his salary for this year at roughly $3 million. With the pro-rated signing bonus money and salary, that would move Woodleys cap number for 2011 to around $5 million.

    That would save the Steelers an additional $5 million from this years salary, bringing the total to $109,184,000.

Lawrence Timmons

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    Lawrence Timmons has finally stepped up and become the ILB that the Steelers drafted him to be. He was the first selection in the Mike Tomlin era, and should be as big of a priority for the Steelers as LaMarr Woodley, the second pick in the Mike Tomlin era.

    Timmons needs to know that he is as important to the Steelers as LaMarr Woodley is, so the Steelers should offer him the exact same contract as Woodley.

    Mike Tomlin should sit the two of them down, together, and say, this is the largest defensive contract in the history of the Steelers, and we think that the two of you are worth every penny.

    That would mean, that Timmons contract will be worth $55 million over six years, with a signing bonus of roughly $15 million, and would count for $5 million against the 2011 books.

    With a current salary of $650,000, that would be a raise of $4.45 million (not counting signing bonus) and would bring the Steelers yearly salary to $114,184,000.

Troy Polamalu

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    There is no question that Troy Polamalu, the reigning DPOY, is one of the best defenders in the NFL. Polamalu is also set to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2011 season.

    Polamalu is scheduled to make $6.4 million in 2011.

    At the age of 30, Polamalu probably has 3-4 more years playing at the level he currently plays at, provided he can stay away from the injuries.

    In 2007, the Steelers signed Polamalu to a four year, $30.19 million dollar contract. He has been worth every penny, if not more. Now that he is in the final year of that contract, he needs to be resigned to lower his cap number.

    I believe that the Steelers should re-sign Polamalu to a five year contract, with a value of $35 million dollars, with a signing bonus of $10 million.

    With that contract, Polamalu would count for $2 million on the pro-rated signing bonus, plus an additional $3 million for salary, bringing his total to about $5 million for 2011.

    This would bring the Steelers relief of $1.4 million for 2011, bringing their salary to roughly $112,784,000.

Ike Taylor

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    Ike Taylor is the best corner on the Steelers roster, and (as I have said about 1,000 times) as long as he isn't looking to break the bank, the Steelers should do everything in their power to bring him back.

    The last contract Taylor signed with the Steelers was for five years, and $22.5 million.

    I believe the Steelers should offer Ike a four year contract, with a value of $30 million, with $10 million as a signing bonus.

    This would give him an average of $7.5 million per year (it is reported that Taylor is looking to make between $7-8 million per year). He would then count about $4 million against the salary cap in 2011, and if his performance starts to decline, he can be move to safety or released in future years with only a minimal cap hit.

    This would bring the Steelers salary to $116,784,000.

Rookies

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    At this point right now, there is no way to know what the new CBA has in store for rookies, only that they are going to make less money than they have in the past.

    To estimate, I would say that the rookie class, along with the rookie free agents that the Steelers are going to sign is some where in the neighborhood of $5 million for the 2011 season.

    That would bring the Steelers total compensation for 2011 to $121,784,000.

    With the current salary cap set at $130 million, this would leave the Steelers at roughly $8 million dollars under the proposed salary cap. The salary floor, which is 90% of the cap, would be set at $117 million or so.

     

Left over Money?

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    With the $8 million dollars in remaining money, the Steelers would then have the option of locking up other players (Mike Wallace) or bringing in either top tier offensive lineman or cornerback.

    Either that, or they could bring in a second tier player at each position, and hope that they can excel in the Steelers system.

    What would you do if you were the Steelers?

    Re-sign Wallace?

    Bring in a top tier Offensive lineman?

    Bring in a top tier Corner?

    Bring is a second tier Offensive Lineman and Corner?

     

    Let me know in the comments what you think.  Thanks for reading.

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