The Steelers 2005 March Massacre Worked Out Just Fine

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote Thursday on his blog about the impending “March Massacre” that could take place with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bouchette added in his post that it could resemble the “bloodletting” of last offseason.

Bloodletting is an interesting description for what when on last offseason as the Steelers really didn\’t lose anything outside of leadership in the lockerroom. I am not saying that they couldn\’t have used that leadership, because they certainly could have, but there is only so many spots on a roster and the salary cap is always in play.

When you look at the players they released last offseason they include Hines Ward, Aaron Smith, James Farrior, Chris Kemoeatu, Bryant McFadden and Arnaz Battle. Those five players were not signed by another team and are all now retired. Good decisions? I would say so.

What about the Steelers unrestricted free agents from last offseason? That list included Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon, Mewelde Moore, Jerricho Cotchery, Trai Essex, Max Starks, Chris Hoke, William Gay, Anthony Madison and Daniel Sepulveda. They ended up re-signing Batch, Leftwich, Cotchery, Essex and Starks for starters. Hoke retired, while Madison and Sepulveda never caught on with another team. Dixon surfaced on the practice squad of the Baltimore Ravens, while Moore had a short stint with the Indianapolis Colts after the season started. The only player on that list that was signed during free agency by another team was Gay, who signed on with the Arizona Cardinals.

What about the restricted free agents last offseason? The Steelers retained David Johnson, Mike Wallace, Ramon Foster, Doug Legursky, Keenan Lewis and Ryan Mundy with restricted tenders. The only restricted free agent that was not tendered was Jamon Meredith, who ended up signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

All three of the Steelers exclusive rights free agents, Isaac Redman, Steve McLendon and Jeremy Kapinos, were of course easily retained as well.

Was it really a “bloodletting”? I guess that depends on your definition of the word.

The Steelers stand to lose Rashard Mendenhall, Larry Foote, Casey Hampton, Will Allen, Plaxico Burress, Ryan Mundy, Greg Warren, Brandon Johnson, Leonard Pope, Lewis, Wallace, Starks, Legursky, Foster, Batch and Leftwich this offseason. While that list is no doubt huge, how many of those 16 players do you expect will be highly sought after by another team during free agency? Four? Five? Six, maybe? Surely a few of them will return, and you have to think that every effort will be made to keep Lewis from going elsewhere. Wallace and Mendenhall? We\’ve known for quite a while now that the chances of retaining them is very, very unlikely.

As far as potential cap casualties go, James Harrison and Willie Colon have led that list of possible players for quite a while now. Will either take a pay cut to stay? We will know the answer to that question within a month.

This offseason reminds me a little of the 2005 offseason. Do any of you remember what happened back then? The Steelers lost Burress and Kendrick Clancy to the New York Giants, Kendrell Bell to the Kansas City Chiefs, Oliver Ross to the Cardinals, and Keydrick Vincent to the Ravens. A few other unrestricted free agents that offseason, Ainsley Battles, Matt Cushing and Walter Rasby, were all allowed to walk and all three never played another down of football. Barrett Brooks, Willie Williams, Tyrone Carter and Batch, also unrestricted free agents that offseason, all ended up being re-signed. Of the 12 restricted free agents only four were retained.

The restricted free agents that offseason, Verron Haynes, Chris Hope, Brett Keisel, Lee Mays, Jeff Reed and Foote, were all retained with restricted tenders. The Steelers also released Chad Scott and Jay Riemersma that offseason in addition.

Not to be forgotten, the Steelers also restructured the contracts of Marvel Smith, Duce Staley, Jeff Hartings, Clark Haggans and Farrior to clear some cap room and they also convinced Jerome Bettis to take a cut in salary and stay one more season. The contracts of Hampton and Ward were also later extended to clear up even more cap room.

In total, 10 players that ended the season on the 2004 roster were gone, but they did receive three 2006 compensatory draft picks for their loses. That was one busy offseason and it paid off as the Steelers went on to capture their fifth Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XL.

That “March Massacre” worked out just fine and there is no reason to think that forthcoming one won\’t end up for the better either.

  • SR88

    If cuts are made after the draft, do they take the same money off the cap as they would if cut by March 12th? Maybe a great pick falls to 17 and they feel like they can let a vet go.

  • SteelersDepot

    You can cut a player at anytime. As far as the savings go, it depends on which player you are talking about. The key factor is that the Rule of 51 goes into effect at 4 pm eastern on March 12th. Cutting players after June 1st in when teams have the ability to absorb some of the dead money the following year.

  • Mikey Hoje

    Steelers players dug their own graves, as some devoted fans suggested, they were 3-4 key plays from 12-4, 13-3. You’re making seven figures, folks, don’t make us fans SMH in disgust with your ill timed fumbles.

  • Dan Kadunce


  • Dan Kadunce

    The only player on that list that is worth the contract value is James Harrison. I hope he decides to work with the team. The rest? Good riddance.

  • steeltown

    James Harrison is due nearly $20million over the next 2seasons.. he better produce more than 6sacks a season to be worth that much

    Also, speaking of contract value, the price to retain Foote and Will Allen for ONE more season is well worth it. They each could be had for relatively cheap and both are proven players

  • Bob Francis

    I think teams are usually more harmed by holding onto players too long than by letting them go too early. Fresh blood is always needed, and roster turnover is a good thing. However, I do think the overall quality of players that could be lost this year is much higher than other seasons. Mendy, Hampton and Burress are all former first rounders, and Wallace played like one. Foote, Starks and Foster were all very solid in 2012. New guys will have to step up!

  • HarryBackside

    Fair point, but the same could have been said when Porter was cut. I’m a huge Harrison fan, but the Steelers will be fine if he is forced to move on. Worilds has been a more productive pass rusher over his first three seasons than Harrison was over the three years before taking over for Porter.

  • alex

    ouch, desperate need for leadership…when you lose 5+ veterans last year and this year, you better be prepared for the vacuum of leadership created…great article…

  • Mike Carroll

    I agree that whatever “bloodletting” occurs this offseason will leave the team better off because of it. And I think there is real potential for a rebound this upcoming year. But, I would say there is more uncertainty about the direction of the current team as compared to the one coming off the 15-1 season in 2004. Several veteran players, to varying degrees, will be expected to rebound this upcoming season (Woodley, Troy and even Ben). And there will be more opportunities for younger players to step up and establish themselves. If those things happen to large extents across the team, then 2013 could be a great season.

  • Pete

    We know Harrison had a hard time getting LeBeau’s defense, getting cut multiple times by the Steelers and the Ravens. Harrison almost quit football after being cut so many times. Farrior called Harrison a knuckle head when Harrison first was with the team because he never knew what to do. But Harrison is a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and 2x Team MVP. Players like that don’t grow on trees. By the time Porter was a free agent it was clear to everyone that Harrison could take over. Worilds doesn’t give me the same impression.

    Harrison is an all-around better LB than Porter was. Harrison still has something left for a couple more years, either with the Steelers or someone else. I hope he takes that pay cut and stays healthy.

  • SR88

    It is highly unlikely, but if they could get one of the top couple safeties, could Troy or Clark be released or has there been no mention of that from anybody?