Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II held an interactive Q&A conference call on Wednesday with all season ticket holders and several various topics were discussed with some focused somewhat on individual players.
As far as their 21 free agents go this offseason, Rooney said that a plan is in place to re-sign some of them and that outside linebacker Jason Worilds is indeed a target, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Of course no specifics were discussed, but it sounds like the Steelers will attempt to get him locked up long-term prior to the start of free agency in March.
“There are probably a couple of guys we need to look at,” said Rooney. “Jason Worilds is certainly somebody who came on and showed what he can do, particularly over the second half of the season. The truth of the matter is there is a lot of work that needs to be done between now and making some of those final decisions. The new league year doesn’t start until March 11. Between now and then, we will be trying to make those decisions and having conversations with some of the players’ agents, seeing what we can work out. There’s no doubt we have a number of free agents we are going to want to keep. I assure you we are working hard on making sure that it happens.”
We can only speculate that other unrestricted free agents such as defensive lineman Ziggy Hood and Al Woods could also potentially be targets along with several others that we have profiled here on the site.
As far as Brett Keisel goes, Rooney reportedly said that the 35 year-old defensive end must first decide if he wants to play next season and that the team must decide if he's a fit or not. Judging by the interviews that Keisel has already given, he seems open to playing another season, so it will likely come down to whether or not he is willing to take the veteran minimum and if the Steelers have a spot for him after the draft. I wouldn't expect anything to happen with him, if he is indeed brought back, until later in the summer.
Safety Troy Polamalu is another player that has been talked about quite a bit since the 2013 season ended as he is scheduled to earn an $8.25 million base salary in 2014, the final year of his contract. Rooney reportedly said during the conference call on Wednesday that the plan is for him to retire a Steeler and that the team will look at different ways during the offseason to deal with the structure of his current.
“We would very much love to have Troy retire as a Steeler and expect that he will," said Rooney. "As you probably know, he has a contract for next season, so how we structure or restructure is something we’ll look at in the next few months. As we try to piece together next year and our salary cap, there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, but I certainly expect Troy will be one of the pieces of that puzzle. The great thing about this past season as far as Troy was concerned was that he played all 16 games. That’s very helpful for us when we have a player like Troy who’s able to stay healthy and play start to finish. He’s obviously been one of the great Steelers of all time.”
If Polamalu is not interested in taking a pay cut, then the only other way to lower his cap hit next season would be to give him an extension. The Steelers did something similar to that with former wide receiver Hines Ward back in 2009. Basically, a good portion od Polamalu's base salary would be paid to him as a signing bonus with a few more years added on as part of an extension. This would lower his 2014 cap hit, but the prorated signing bonus amounts would then be subject to becoming dead money should he need to be released prior to playing out the final years.
None of the above should come as a surprise, but it is good to hear it coming from Rooney's mouth.