Opening Day Could Still Be Revealing Even If Steelers Don’t Dive In Head First

The Pittsburgh Steelers spent their New League Year Eve doing a bit of internal renovation to make sure they have their house in order before the free agency period officially begins at 4 PM today, and with it comes new salary cap figures.

And even if they don’t make a splash at the opening bell, we should still learn some information about the direction the Steelers are leaning.

It’s difficult to pin down a specific value, but various accounts had the Steelers somewhere within the range of $2.75 and $3.4 million under the cap following earlier moves over the past two weeks.

The Steelers made two cap-saving moves yesterday, though one only indirectly affects their ability to shop in free agency.

More immediately, the Steelers reached an agreement with cornerback Ike Taylor to accept a dramatic pay cut in what appears to be the final year of his professional career. Taylor dropped his base salary from $7 million all the way down to $2.75 million, which equates to a $4.25 million relief in both real money and cap space.

Using conservative estimates of the cap space the Steelers had available coming into the day, that should place their cap figure at somewhere around $7 million under the cap limit. Over the Cap has the Steelers currently $3,434,434 under, so factoring in the savings from Taylor’s new deal would put them $7,684,434 under.

The Steelers are also reportedly set to release outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley tomorrow, but with a post-June 1 designation, meaning that, while he will be a free agent now, his financial life to the team will be as though he will be released in June. As a result, the Steelers will gain an additional $7,580,000 in cap space when June rolls around, which is of course unavailable for now.

In total, the Steelers have produced enough cap-saving maneuvers to get $15,264,434 under the cap by June, give or take half a million or so.

With the significant influx of late money in a few months, the money currently available can be safely spent now, but how will they use it?

The Steelers have been connected with several free agent cornerbacks over the past few days, suggesting their interest to pursue one. Most costly among them is Alterraun Verner, regarded by many as the best free agent cornerback on the market.

Frankly, the team is unlikely to go that big, given their available cap space and the number of holes on the roster. If the Steelers really wanted to go after Verner, they likely would have restructured the contract of Lawrence Timmons by now, unless they believe they are on the verge of a long-term contract with Jason Worilds, who added nearly $10 to their cap obligations with his transition tag.

There are more modestly priced cornerbacks hitting the market, and there are depth concerns elsewhere too, such as at safety and running back, which the Steelers might attack with outside free agents. If we learn of any scheduled visits tomorrow, these may be the three most likely positions targeted.

The Steelers may have the space to bring in a few outside free agents of moderate value, perhaps even a pair of starting-caliber players, but their top priority will likely be replenishing the roster through their own free agents.

Other than the cornerbacks, not much has surfaced of the Steelers’ plans in free agency, which is not altogether surprising. It’s worth keeping in mind that teams are not allowed to even negotiate a meeting with pending free agents until the deadline tomorrow.

Therefore, even if the Steelers are not big players on the opening day of the free agency period—which you can probably safely bet on—we should at least start to get a sense of what direction they might be headed in, as they have about a $7.5 million hole burning through their collective pockets, a rare occurrence in recent years.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Nolrog

    A nice mid-level FA or two on defense would help a lot.

  • Eric Crook

    Gotta grab a starting corner while they have the cap space…..they will probably go after Nolan Caroll because he is still young and was a Steelers draft target a few years ago

  • steeltown

    Did you guys know that Oakland and Jacksonville have upwards of $60MIL in cap space… insane

  • chris ward

    Think the Steelers will go after some depth guys on defense in FA. The rest they will address through the draft.

  • Deuce22

    Does anyone have any guesses on who we could be going for in the RB and LB fields? I heard one speculation about MJD being a good fit for us. What are your thoughts?

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Yup. And here were are excited about making all these moves just to get under the cap. Funny, eh?

    And the other thing is that not many teams act as irresponsibly as they used to do in the past. The Raiders now have Reggie McKenzie running the show and he seems to be very responsible in building the team, so you can no longer be assured that they will make a stupid draft pick. Teams will always jump for some QB’s but there are many more building from the trenches. Smarter than in past years.

    And with all that cap space, what an enviable position. Look at Cleveland’s team, their handful of key needs and their cap. Great for them, except the owner has been acting like a crazed fool! Sorry, but I could talk all day about this stuff.

  • dkoy85

    I think the coming hours will tell a lot. If they restructure Timmons or get Worilds signed to a long term deal, I think that is a sign, IMO, that Verner’s ink is drying. If not, I still expect them to sign a CB in the next few days.

  • srdan

    a good fit for us would mean pricewise as well. I am not sure where he falls on that scale. I’m not sure anyone is. but his hands woudl be an asset for sure.

  • Tanner

    If the Steelers could get Rolando McClain, Jermichael Finley, Nolan Carroll, Jerricho Cotchery, Terrence Cody, and Fernando Velasco. Then draft Benjamin in round 1, maybe Tuitt round 2, Pierre round 3, and Keith McGill round 4. They would be sitting pretty well for another playoff run

  • srdan

    I’m thinking that we willmore than likely make a play on a RB in free agency. That is one position where it is a buyers market and we could use a boost. MJD, mcluster, gerhart(not my fav), sproles, are all out there and it’s a deep RB draft class from what I have read. Does Munchak endorse CJ2k?

  • Tanner

    And maybe a FS somewhere in that mix. Like a Taylor Mays to work with Lake. He would be a bigger, faster version of Ryan Clark

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I have a man crush on Truitt…that DL would be beastly with Heyward and Truitt on the other side.

  • Geoff Cordner

    I’d say no to Terrence Cody. Wasn’t he a disappointment for the Ravens?

  • Deuce22

    Damn man, you got it all figured out. Those would be some nice off season acquisitions. They should def. keep Cotch and Velasco. Round one of the draft can go in many directions just because of our needs at a few positions, but WR seems to be the best bet. We will see!

  • dkoy85

    This would be great. The good thing about drafting Benjamin is that more than likely we traded back to get him so you could add another 3rd rounder to that list.

  • 243546

    I wonder if Colbert has some re-structures lined up, but isn’t going to pull the trigger unless he needs it? If it were me, I would already have everything in place to make it happen, so if I needed to free up space to sign a player, freeing up the necessary cap space would only be a phone call away.

  • Rosco

    I would love to have Sproles!! He can help with the return game as well…. even though AB is entertaining to watch but hes too valuable to be at risk!!

  • Deuce22

    I’m sure many if not all GM’s have some sort of thing in place in order to free cap space for someone they are after. Timmons of course would be the main name to look for a restructure. Possibly extend some of the others that have a large cap hit this year (Ben).

  • 243546

    I’m surprised more people are talking about the need at DE. Hood and Woods aren’t a guarantee, or else they would already be signed. I’d like to take a shot at Linval Joseph. Joseph is great against the run, and he can rush the passer. He could be an option at NT or DE.

  • Deuce22

    If he is an option at NT, you could swing Mclendon over to DE which is where he is comfortable the most.

  • srdan

    It’s tough to get on the field iwth maybe the best NT in the league in front of you. But then again I think that not playing as the starter may suit someone the size of Cody.

    I’d give him a shot since we would kill two birds with one stone.

  • 243546

    I’d rather bring Woods back, and play him at DE over McLendon.

  • Alan Felicia

    As well as the NY Jets. These teams have no franchise QBs nor do they have quality or high salary position players that they’re paying (CBs, Tackles, WRs, etc.). Oakland and Jacksonville are a mess, at least NY tries to win and sign players. Remember when Jacksonville not backing down to Jones Drew’s salary restructure demands in 2011.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I generally believe in building a balanced team but think we should try to get a difference maker in the defensive backfield instead of depth.

    I could live with extensions and roster management for another year or signing a few young upside free agents but generic replacement level depth isn’t the direction I would choose.

  • cp72

    Yeah but they’re the Raiders and Jacksonville. If you’re a free agent and sign with either one of those organizations you definitely sold out for the money.

  • Alan Felicia

    Taylor Mays? This kid has been in the league since 2010 and have yet to record a single Pick! Played 50 games, 10 starts, 0 INTs. Even Pete Carroll wouldn’t sign this player.

  • srdan

    I really have to give a lot of people in this forum credit as well as SD. This offseason is playing out how many pictured it. There are things people disagree on like 43’s extension but in general most wanted 93 kept and 56 reduced/traded/cut. No way he would have took teh first two, so the last one it was.

    The front office is redoing the roster well, making moves that make sense for the players and the team. I give them a lot of credit as well.

    Now if we could only agree on the first round pick….

  • Tanner

    How many picks does Ryan Clark have since 2010? And Being with the Bengals which mostly plain man coverage it’s hard getting picks

  • steelster

    If we resign cotchery, woods or hood, and dywer how money will we have to sign Free agents. We might have 3-4 million left, I don’t know. It will be hard to do much with that in free agency.

  • Alan Felicia

    Ryan Clark had 2 INTs in 2013. Since 2010, Clark has a total of 7 INTs.
    Will Allen, who rarely starts, has more INTs than Mays since 2010.
    Bottom line, I would hope Colbert and the Steelers signs players that will actually help improve the Defense especially in forcing Turnovers. And if you don’t remember, Pittsburgh have been atrocious in forcing turnovers since 2010 (ranking in the bottom 7 in 2011, 2012, 2013). The only positive about Mays is his size (6’3″).

  • Jollyrob68

    Not a disappointment was behind starters

  • Jollyrob68

    Nate Allen?

  • Tanner

    Didn’t know Clark had that many. All I’m saying is Mays is a big, fast, hard hitting safety that if he’s on the right team wide receivers would hate to have to catch the ball across the middle

  • dkoy85

    True, but they may have Timmons waiting on the side to restructure if they covet a free agent or two.

  • Alan Felicia

    Problem would your theory is that more and more receivers don’t have anymore fears going across the middle b/c of the new rules! Even our own safeties don’t lay the wood as much. Yeah Mays is big, but, can he cover? Does Mays have the ability to force turnovers? One thing is for sure, Mays will come cheap.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Reggie macKenzie will build a winner in Oakland if given enough time. Of course, the owner could lose his mind and fire him, in which case it will be decades before they will become consistent winners. My point is that not all teams are as stupid as they once were. Thank God there are still a few that do the same stupid things.

    That way, the Steelers get some good players to drop in their laps occasionally.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Exactly and that’s the point I have been trying to make for many, many months. They have made all these moves and even saying bye to Woodley but it’s not like they can go on a shopping spree. The 1st move should be getting a reasonable contract with Worlds thereby bringing his cap number way down this year.

    After that, it would be much easier to make some little, intelligent moves on the FA front. Remember signing some of their own FA’s is essential right now:

    Dwyer and LSH if he’s healthy and they still need another backup perhaps UDFA. You need some D line depth, and Woods is my first choice.

    You see where I’m going.

  • Tanner

    I think he showed he could cover his junior year in college when he had great players around him but when he doesn’t have good players around him he tends to not show his ability because he tries to make big plays by himself. That’s what dropped his draft stock his senior year and it continued when he played with the 49ers and he learned from that a little with the Bengals but it was to late.

  • Luke Shabro

    I would say Oakland’s doing it the right way but they seem to be letting Veldheer walk and looking at signing Saffold. I like Veldheer a lot more and they can afford him but maybe they have an injury concern or he’s not fitting the scheme they want. Some teams like the Skins and Dolphins (again) will overspend a bunch and we’ll all laugh when less than half of their FAs pan out. I believe I heard Colbert (or maybe Tomlin) say we want to be winners in February not winners in March.

  • Alan Felicia

    College was a long time ago. According to several Cincy boards, Mays has been a liability in coverage ever since they traded for him in 2011. No doubt he can hit but his coverage skills is so bad that he was buried in the depth chart the past 2 season. Thus the reason why Mays has never had an interception in his 4 years in the NFL.

  • srdan

    Good point. It’s nice to keep one restructure in the pocket.

  • steelster

    the only free agent signing I would like to see the steelers go out and do is sign a true NT that can stuff the run. That way they can shift McClendon over to De. One move solves 2 problems. Also, I really like woods and would like to see him rotate in a lot to help keep that d line fresh for the forth Quarter. Do you realize the steelers could have 8 starters on defense in 2014 that have 2 years or less of starting experience. Is that risky, yes. We may have to watch them go through a lot of growing pains but I say it’s worth it. Lets see what kind of young talent we have in 2014 and spend money in free agency in 2015 when we have a better read on our true needs.

  • Josh Knepshield

    Are you serious? They let their best players leave every year. Last year they let Desmond Bryant leave who made the Browns defense great. This year they let Jared Veldheer AND Lamarr Houston go, their 2 best players. Yeah, that’s how you make a winner. Lol

  • sean mcmartin

    It is crazy. two losing teams in need of rebuilding.Reggie mckenzie might just be the one Gm that can make the raiders relevant again.
    bungles have cash too, and a good roster..someone is doing something right in their house.

  • Will Hammer

    Jared ALLEN !!!!

  • steelster

    that is a move the raiders would make, how would he fit into the steelers long term plans, he wouldn’t that’s how.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Reggie knows how to build, as he did so in Green Bay. If they give him free reign, he will build them a good team over time. If the owner behaves like his father and starts calling the shots, then you are absolutely correct that it will takes decades.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Thank the good Lord, someone is actually thinking about the future.

  • Josh Knepshield

    I don’t see how letting Jared Veldheer, one of the best LTs in the game leave, and replacing him with Rodger Saffold, a guy who has never played well at left tackle at a higher salary. In my book that’s stupid. Veldheer is the better player, but the Raiders paid Saffold more money.