Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert doesn’t talk to the media very often, but he had his annual press conference last week at the team’s South Side training complex.
Colbert didn’t reveal any state secrets during the get together, but as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review‘s Alan Robinson reported, he did address how the Steelers are seemingly in desperate need to shed salary every offseason.
Once again, the Steelers have to drop significant money from their payroll to get under the NFL’s salary cap. The deadline for compliance is March 11, giving Pittsburgh about three weeks to get rid of around $10 million. Our Matt Shetler wrote today that linebacker LaMarr Woodley is reportedly not in the Steelers’ plans for 2014, but cutting the former Pro Bowler would help Colbert’s reduction plan only slightly.
Should the Steelers rethink their approach to team-building? As teams like the Saints, Broncos and Patriots have shown recently, when a team has a highly-paid quarterback, retaining a core of several key players isn’t necessary to remain competitive. With Ben Roethlisberger on the Pittsburgh payroll presumably for the next few years, maybe it’s time for the Steelers to be more ruthless in their evaluation process.
By that I mean it may be time to let more veterans go and commit to giving more playing time than usual to youngsters. This would be a departure from the way Colbert has done business since taking over football operations 14 years ago, but after a couple playoff-less seasons in a row, a change could be exactly what the Steelers need.
The cut-and-run strategy that teams like New England have refined over the years wouldn’t be possible in the NHL, NBA or MLB, where players are protected by guaranteed contracts. Only in the NFL can franchises rid themselves of unwanted athletes in this manner.
It’s ironic that North America’s most brutal major pro sports league offers so little stability for its players, but that’s the way it is right now.
As Colbert alluded to last week, the Seahawks were able to succeed this year with several big-money players because second-year quarterback Russell Wilson has yet to cash in on a huge long-term deal. The Steelers won’t have that luxury as long as Roethlisberger is behind center.
I’m not saying the Steelers should scorch the earth, necessarily. In addition to dropping Woodley, cutting offensive tackle Levi Brown will get the Steelers within reasonable range of the salary cap, so they should be able to pull it off without breaking much of a sweat.
However, trimming the fat is always a good thing, no matter what the team-building philosophy may be. It’s past time for the Steelers to get a little leaner.