With Top Priority Addressed, The Steelers Can Turn Their Attention To Other Interests

While there’s still the matter of completing a long-term contract, the Pittsburgh Steelers have made early progress on completing their top priority this offseason, which was to retain outside linebacker Jason Worilds.

They did so by applying the transition tag to him on Monday, which he accepted yesterday, guaranteeing his services for at least the 2014 season and exclusive bargaining rights to complete that long-term contract.

Knowing now that they have nearly $10 million worth of salary cap space wrapped up in retaining their promising young pass rusher, the Steelers now have a much clearer picture of what they have to work with heading into the free agency period.

They know that they still need to clear millions in salary cap space in addition to releasing tackle Levi Brown to accommodate Worilds’ contract, the process beginning with a renegotiation of tight end Heath Miller’s contract.

Up next on the books are likely restructures of the contracts of Antonio Brown and Lawrence Timmons, as well as approaching Ike Taylor about either taking a pay cut or having his contract terminated.

How much else they will have to do depends on how they feel they can perform in free agency. If they desire to bring in a lower mid-level free agent or two, perhaps they need to create extra space.

That is what they have to figure out between now and the start of the free agency period, which is preceded by a three-day window during which teams are permitted to negotiate contracts with agents.

It is during this period that the Steelers should be able to determine just how much they can get done if they intend to be active at all during the first wave of the free agency singing period, though that is largely reserved for the high-value free agents.

Some names that the Steelers could be looking to next include their reserves along the offensive and defensive lines, particularly Fernando Velasco, Guy Whimper, Cody Wallace, Ziggy Hood, Al Woods, and Brett Keisel.

As many as five, but hopefully at least four of these six players should be coming back to Pittsburgh next season, given the significant lack of depth along both lines that would exist without them on the roster.

Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery could well be perceived as the new top priority with Worilds committed to at least one more season. His 10-touchdown year helped ease the bleeding that was the result of a lack of production from Miller in the end zone.

Some of their other free agents that they could be looking at include Jonathan Dwyer, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Will Allen, and Stevenson Sylvester.

Many of these players, however, will face a slim market, and will most certainly have to wait their turn as teams address their top-end needs during the first week or more of the free agency period.

Thus, before worrying about some of the more interchangeable pieces from their roster, the Steelers could be turning their eye to what’s available from other teams. Free agent defensive backs like Louis Delmas, Rashean Mathis, Walter Thurmond, and Brandon Browner could raise their interests, among others, of course.

We have discussed the possibility of bringing in a player capable of handling the nose tackle position such as Paul Soliai or Red Bryant, which would free up Steve McLendon to play defensive end. Depth at both inside and outside linebacker could also stand to be addressed, as well as a punter.

In addition to taking into account what’s available on the free agent market, however, the Steelers must consider what they can acquire via the draft, such as depth at the skill positions on offense. Either way, we should begin seeing a flurry of activity beginning soon, as the team has over $15 million in cap space to clear in under a week.

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

    Would be nice to at the very least get Cotchery, Dwyer, C.Wallace and Al Woods back under contract and then of course strongly shop for a FA Safety and OLB

  • James Kling

    I realize LSH tore up his ACL, but he was showing very nice stuff in the preseason last year, and if he’s back to speed he’d be a nice addition this year. Bring him and Dwyer back, and maybe add a developmental guy late in the draft or as a FA. (Unless a guy we like really falls.)

  • Steelers12328882

    Ike needs to take a pay cut NOW. There is no priority higher then this.

  • James Kling

    He does need to take a pay cut, but highest priority is figuring out a smart solution to the Woodley/Worilds contracts.

  • MP34

    If Ike doesn’t take the cut, is their another CB we could possibly entice in the 3.5 mil to 5mil category? I guess what I’m asking is, do you pay a declining, 33 year old Ike 3 mi, to be a 2nd or 3rd CB, when you might get a younger guy with some upside for a few dollars more? And who fits that profile in this year’s crop?
    Last year’s guy like that would have been Brent Grimes, coming off that Achilles injury… he’ll probably pull 11-12 million this year.

  • MP34

    …and I just saw Grimes got 4yrs ..32million 16 million guaranteed.

  • cp72

    You know it may be a luxury type signing. I just think Dexter McCluster would be a very interesting guy to bring in.

  • Tom Jackson

    i think if they just guarantee the 10.88 million left on his deal and spread it into a 2 year contract that should be a fair deal for both sides for Troy that would work out to 5.44 mill a year for two years we could even say 2 million of it to sign and than a 4.44 cap hit the next two years sounds pretty fair

  • Steelers12328882

    Well, Worilds is done. Sure, a long term contract needs to be figured out, but for now at least he’s a 2014 Steeler. As the article says, the top priority has been addressed. I actually think it’s ok if Woodley plays out this year under his current contract, and I don’t think he’ll reduce his pay. I also think cutting him is not an option, at least this year. I hope he stays healthy and can play MOST of the year at ROLB. Jones needs to sit and be a situational player for now. Ike’s play was awful last year, and I’d rather he be cut then play for that pay. He also turns 34 in May. There’s a good chance our first pick in the draft will be a CB. I’d say that signals our CB situation, if not the entire secondary, is our highest priority.

  • James Kling

    Worilds is decidedly NOT done. If the FO can’t come up with a long-term deal, it screws up the cap badly. I agree that it probably makes no sense for Woodley to reduce his salary this year, or for the FO to cut him. But his current cap hit is basically untenable, so the FO is caught between a rock and a hard place. If this issue isn’t resolved, the long-term consequences are much larger than the Ike decision. That’s a pretty easy nut to crack.

    Why not move Jones to buck?

  • blackandgoldBullion

    This article reminds of what I’ve been talking about for months. Look at the list of FA’s the Steelers have currently, figure out which ones are quite important in order to have a decent roster, with potential starters and backups, and check out what’s next. I thought about this long ago. Then how much money is required.

    Think about guys like Cotch, Dwyer, LSH etc. And especially what Matthew just said about the linemen. Yes, they really do need quite a few of those guys, like Woods, Wallace, maybe Velasco, and a few more. How much will that cost? Maybe 10Mill this year? More?

    Now what was quoted here .. $15 million needs to be cut in a week. Is that just to become compliant? If so, then they need to cut much more if they wish to entertain signing anyone at all, never mind other team’s FA’s.

    And if you want anyone, you will be competing with all kinds of teams that have 10;s of millions in cap space available. So don’t expect any big name signings, because it ain’t gonna happen. Later perhaps some 2nd or 3rd tier guys.

    Don’t you wish the Steelers were deep enough that they could offload some big contracts? A little bloodletting is bound to happen here.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    There’s Chris Harris, the RFA from Denver Broncos. We might will have to give up a 2nd round to get him but he’ll be cheaper than Ike and is younger.

  • Steelers12328882

    Oh I agree, they need to sign Worilds long term and that will reduce his salary this year, but I think they could handle it if by chance a deal didn’t work out. However, my guess is, since Worilds signed the tender in less then a day, that something has already been worked out long term and it’s just a matter of details before it’s announced. Why else would he sign it so quickly? I think it’s a done deal, and time to move on to more pressing needs. The resigning of Will Allen and the extension given to Troy points in that direction. Next up: Ike Taylor.