As the past month has gone by, we’ve seen impressive week after impressive week from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line. They’ve performed pretty well in terms of pass protection all season and after a third consecutive 100-yard rusher, this unit has found a groove and as a result the Steelers have put together a winning streak.
One of the main catalysts of the turnaround for the offensive line has been the play of Willie Colon, who has been fantastic this season after the move from tackle to guard.
His physical play set the tone in the win against the Bengals and the Steelers have fed off that and haven’t looked back since.
But as Colon turns in good game after good game, is he in fact pricing himself away from the Steelers?
Colon isn’t a free agent until the 2016 season after signing a five-year, $29 million deal in 2011, but that figure alone could cause the Steelers problems down the road, possibly even next year if they are committed to signing wide receiver Mike Wallace.
The Steelers will have a lot of money tied up at the wide receiver position even if they don’t sign Wallace, but if they do, the Steelers have routinely been in a bad spot with the salary cap, which means some tough decisions will have to be made.
The problem comes next season when the contracts of Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert are set to expire. Then comes the deals for David DeCastro and Mike Adams, which are set to expire in 2016. That seems like a long way away, but the franchise must have their finances in order by then.
Pouncey will definitely receive a hefty extension and Gilbert will likely get himself a pay raise as well. Considering the franchise tag for 2012 for offensive lineman was $9.383 million for 2012, the Steelers will have some money tied up on their offensive line.
Colon is having a breakout season this year, but will be the oldest projected starter on the offensive line in 2013 by far.
There is also the small chance that if Colon heads to a Pro Bowl that he could want a new deal for himself.
It will be interesting to see how the Steelers handle the salary cap not only next season but in the years that follow. Colon is the prototypical guy they will have to make a tough decision on, given his age and injury history.
But considering the offensive line problems in the past, it would be very tough for me to see the Steelers not do everything possible to keep this unit together for years.