Hines Is Gone, So Who’s Next?

By Jeremy Hritz

Hines Ward was no doubt an integral part of the Pittsburgh Steelers over the last several years and was a primary contributor in Super Bowl wins number six and seven. His physicality and connection with the fans of Pittsburgh will not be forgotten, no matter what jersey he wears next year (with the exclusion of a black and purple one). Ward will always be a Steeler, and someday soon, he will wear a jacket in Canton.

However, it was time for him to go. There would have been no way of justifying keeping him on board for the 2012 season with the plentiful young talent at wide receiver in Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and the hopefully soon-to-be resigned Mike Wallace. While Ward could have provided leadership and guidance to the young receivers, his diminished abilities, which were evident in 2011, would not have made the Steelers offense as effective as it could be in 2012. The impending release of Ward now sets the team up for either the resigning of Jerricho Cotchery or a middle-tier or slightly above average free agent wide receiver. Or, in an NFL Draft that Kevin Colbert has labeled as deep in wide receivers, and with the recent success the Steelers have had drafting wide receivers, the Steelers could pull the trigger on a wide-out in the third or fourth round of this year’s draft.

Ward’s upcoming release is also indicative that the other speculated cuts will soon be announced. These moves are being made so that the team can be in compliance with the salary cap, offer Wallace a viable long-term contract, and to create room to make offers to any free agents that they may have their eyes on.

So who will be next to get the axe over the next couple of weeks? It seems the magic number is two.

Chris Kemoeatu is as good as gone. A penalty machine who was demoted during the 2011 season, Kemoeatu has become expendable, and with the likelihood of the Steelers drafting a guard in the first or second round, his exit is nearly guaranteed.

The next cut will either be James Farrior or Larry Foote. Farrior is the elder of the two at 37 years old, and based on his play this year, which was questionable especially in pass coverage, he should get the axe. Again, his contributions to the team will not be forgotten, but his effectiveness as a middle linebacker has declined, and Foote still has a few productive years left at 31.

Colbert has already indicated that Casey Hampton will be returning to the team in an interview from last week’s NFL Combine. Hampton is currently recovering from his third ACL injury after a less than stellar performance in 2011 in which his performance contributed to a porous run defense. While Hampton will not be cut, the organization needs to seriously consider his future with team and his ability to contribute at a high level. With the possibility of the Steelers drafting Dontari Poe, if he is attainable during the draft, and with Steve McClendon’s serviceable play last season, is Hampton a necessity?

The biggest cut has already taken place with Ward. And as March 13th approaches, Kemoeatu and Farrior are probably the next in line. The moves being made are necessary as the Steelers gear up to offer Wallace an attractive contract and to have some flexibility to go after a few free agents. This much is clear: When it comes to letting players go, it isn’t about what players have done, it is about what they have done lately. No one is safe, and there may be more surprises left in the black and gold bag,

  • Ron Jammes

    Keomeato will be back as a reserve, please lets get off the Dontari Poe bandwagon. When the teams look at his film they will cringe. Hampton can still play and Steve McLendon is an up and comer. He weighs about 315-320 according to sources I trust and that’s plenty big enough

  • Joe D

    1. Kemo
    2. Farrior
    3. Smith
    I still say Hampton… to much to payy for MAYBE playing 1/2 season… no way Hampton is back next year!! Not even at veteran minimum.

  • Pittfann1

    First sentence. Steelers have only won 6 titles. We’ll make it seven this year though.

  • greeny

    Mike Wallace will be gone next. As much as this is upsetting to me but the writing is on the wall. If they haven’t cut ties yet with Farrior, Kemo, Smith, and Hampton; this lends itself that Wallace will be gone and will be compensated for a 1st round pick. This is the price for the way we have drafted in the past for example stock piling LB’s with no intention of developing them when we needed OL and DB’s. Now we are hamstrung by the cap and this team today needs OL help desperately, NT, ILB, and secondary. They are going to stock pile picks. I think our run as a dominant team in this league is over.

  • Alan

    The question with McLendon- is he the long-term solution and will he perform as well as Hampton or even Joel Steed (NT that Hampton replaced many moons ago). Hampton played right away his rookie season. McLendon took 2 years on the practice squad and was nothing write about during the playoffs.
    With Hampton, the question is how many more years can he play especially coming off ACL injury.
    Clearly, you do understand that the team will need to find a replacement very soon.

  • David

    The Steelers won a 7th Super Bowl?!
    Good article besides that error. I see Aaron Smith as the most likely candidate to go, his play dropped off a ton last year and I almost got the feeling they IRd him just to save him the disrespect of having to be cut.

  • Ron Jammes

    They will need a replacement but it won’t be Poe, there are a lot of def. tackles in this draft that are capable replacements and who have played at BCS conference teams. Look at Still at PSU for one.Mitchell needs at least two years to work with these guys to get them to drop their bad habits. I jus hope John Mitchell stays around awhile. Remember it is about production and not what guys do in shorts

  • Jimmy

    I’ll have to disagree with you. I think the release Hines indicates that the steelers will be signing Wallace to a long term contract. They’re probably waiting on official cap numbers and still deciding on who they can release to help our cap out.

  • ESPN is reporting that they intend to RFA, Wallace. If they do that, he is gone.

  • kevin

    There is a reason why the Steelers haven’t cut ties with those players. They were waiting on specific numbers to see who they needed to cut in order to keep Wallace. Why cut Farrior, if you can fit him under the cap with Wallace and the RFA? He is still better than Sylvester and probably Foote. The Steelers do not need OL help desparately. The could use it, but they need depth right now. They have 4 positions set on the O-line next year with adequate or above-average starters. If they need help desparately, it is at NT where Hampton will miss 6 games (likely) and he spent all last year protecting his knees anyway. He is going to get blown up this year.

  • kevin

    I think they need to cut Hampton. He spent all year protecting his knees and the defense suffered for it. (I can’t really blame the guy because the rules on cut blocking suck). However, he is coming off an ACL injury, what is the likelihood that he won’t spend alot of his energy protecting his knees now.

  • LabRat0116

    Aaaannnnddd……? What about a some guy named Aaron Smith ????

  • LabRat0116

    Dude. They have until March 13th to make these cuts.

  • LabRat0116

    They need to let Farrior walk and keep Foote this year. Still need experienced depth a ILB.

  • Jimmy

    Yeah, I saw that after I posted my response. Unfortunately if we’re just tendering him, I can see him getting signed by another team and the Steelers not matching their offer.

    However, I do not think our secondary is an issue. Clearly that was shown with our passing defensive rank this year.

    And we have been constantly drafting offensive lineman. They just haven’t been able to stick around is all.

  • greeny

    Braaah..we didn’t franchise him. He is gone. We don’t have money to match

  • LabRat0116

    Yea they do. Why do you think they made all these big cuts ?