After a heartbreaking loss in the Super Bowl and an offseason filled with highs, but more lows, perhaps no team and fanbase were more excited to hear that the NFL lockout has come to an end than the Pittsburgh Steelers. With the announcement of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement came the excitement that Steeler Nation would be in full effect for another season and another Super Bowl run. Camp opens up at St. Vincents College on Thursday in what is going to be one of the most hectic weeks in recent memories. Starting today, rookies and undrafted free agents can sign and then comes players reporting to camp, players being cut, free agents signing and the actual preseason games.
The Steelers are currently $10.3 million over the salary cap of $120.4 million to enter the year and cuts are going to have to happen. The Ravens already said they are going to cut Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Willis McGahee and Kevin Gregg just hours after the lockout ended. The main candidates for the Steelers to be cut would be Aaron Smith, Larry Foote, Bryant McFadden, Antwan Randel El and possibly Flozell Adams. Smith is a fan favorite, but is 34 years old and can’t seem to stay healthy. Foote, McFadden and Randel El were brought back last season, but none of them contributed much. The Steelers brought in Adams to fill in for the injured Willie Colon last season and he did a superb job. The question is, will the Steelers try to retain Colon who is looking to cash in as an unrestricted free agent or will they keep Adams for the final year of his deal worth $5 million until rookie Marcus Gilbert is ready?
Another way to get the cap number down is to restructure some deals and sign players to extensions. The Steelers used their franchise tag on outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley in February worth $10 million for 1-year. If they could lock him up long-term, it would bring the Steelers cap down substantially. Also, look for the Steelers to offer long-term deals to safety Troy Polamalu and inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons who both have contracts that expire next season.
The main free agent target for the Steelers is their own Ike Taylor. The 6’2 195 pound Taylor, enters his ninth year in the NFL, all with the Steelers. While Taylor has been criticized for not being able to catch the ball, he has down a very good job at shutting down the opposition’s number one receiver. With Nnamdi Asomugha, Johnathan Joseph, Antonio Cromartie and Carlos Rogers heading the cornberback free agents, the Steelers number one priority according to owner Dan Rooney, is to re-sign Taylor. Taylor has gone on record as saying he wants to stay in Pittsburgh, but that doesn’t mean that he is going to. This will be the 31-year-old Taylor’s last chance to cash in on a good free agent deal, but as long as the Steelers show they willing to at least come close to matching any deal, I don’t see Taylor signing anywhere else. Taylor isn’t the best cornerback in the league, but he is the best Pittsburgh has. Do you really want William Gay, Keenan Lewis, Crezdon Butler, Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen attempting to lockdown receivers?
The Steelers have signed 15 undrafted free agents thus far, most as camp bodies, but the group is highlighted by Wisconsin running back John Clay and South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders. Clay left after his junior season at Wisconsin where he rushed for 1012 yards and 14 touchdowns on his way to playing in the Rose Bowl. As a sophomore, Clay rushed for 1517 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Steelers could use running back depth to help out Rashard Mendenhall and Clay could fight for a spot on the team. Mewelde Moore is a free agent, so that leaves Isaac Redman, Baron Batch, Jonathan Dwyer and Clay competing for the backup spots. The Steelers have also been rumored to be interested in free agent Tiki Barber.
Saunders could be a huge steal for the Steelers as an undrafted free agent. Saunders missed his senior season at South Carolina due to receiving improper benefits and making improper contact with an agent. Saunders was thought to be a first or second round pick at one point. The 6’6 273 pound Saunders could be the tight end of the future and could be the backup if the Steelers decide to let Matt Spaeth go. As a junior, Saunders was named to the Mackey preseason watch list and finished his college career with 60 receptions for 718 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Here is the complete list of the undrafted free agents the Steelers have signed:
1) Vaughn Charlton, TE/HB (Temple)
2) John Clay, HB (Wisconsin)
3) Terrence McCrae, WR (Ohio)
4) Armand Robinson, WR (Miami University)
5) Adam Mims, WR (Furman)
6) Weslye Saunders, TE (South Carolina)
7) Colin Miller, C (Central Michigan)
Trevis Turner, OT (Abilene Christian)
9) Brent Greenwood, S (Iowa)
10) Niles Brinkley, CB (Wisconsin)
11) Eric Clanton, OLB (Citadel)
12) Mario Harvey, MLB (Marshall)
13) Miguel Chavis, DE (Clemson)
14) Anthony Gray, DT (Southern Miss)
15) Eric Greenwood, WR (Idaho)
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com