Last night Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that unrestricted free agent running back Mike Tolbert was likely to land with the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Carolina Panthers and that Tolbert had a visit set up Saturday with an undisclosed team. In my post last night that relayed the report from Acee, I warned that although Tolbert would certainly be a fit for the Steelers in my own opinion, it was hard to speculate further about it until we knew for sure that Tolbert was indeed visiting the Steelers.
As it turns it, Tolbert does not have a visit scheduled right now according to Pittsburgh Post Gazette beat writer Gerry Dulac. Dulac tweeted Saturday, “Go easy on Mike Tolbert to Steelers talk. No visit. Not happening.”, and that makes the report from Acee on Friday evening seem even more of a speculative statement than it already was. Even though Tolbert named the Steelers as a team he would be interested in playing for prior to the start of free agency, does not necessarily mean the feeling was mutual.
The Steelers normally do not make bigger name signings like this early on in free agency as history has shown us and being as Tolbert was reportedly still squabbling about money with the Chargers as late as Thursday, you can only imagine what his reaction would be to a likely smaller offer the Steelers would make him. The longer that Tolbert remains unsigned however, the more likely he is to lower his demands and that could ultimately end with him re-signing with the Chargers, even though Acee finds that unlikely to happen.
So for right now it appears that the final destination for Tolbert will be anywhere but Pittsburgh, who have a large stable of running backs already that includes a recovering Rashard Mendenhall, who is scheduled to count over $3 million against the cap in 2012. If another running back were signed that had a first year cap hit of $1.5 million or more, Mendenhall would likely be jettisoned. As it appears right now, the Steelers are not ready to do that even though Mendenhall is heading into the final year of his contract and almost certain to start the year on the PUP list.