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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.

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