Saturday, February 11, 2012

Out with the Old, In with the New

As many predicted, February 2012 might be known as the month when the Steelers cleaned house and parted ways with many long-standing players. Given the team's current situation of being about $30 million over the salary cap, they need to clear some room in order to be able to sign free agents (Mike Wallace in particular). Two players (Bryant McFadden and Arnaz Battle) have already been cut, and it is likely that more cuts will come, possibly involving long-time Steelers such as Hines Ward, James Farrior, and Casey Hampton.

While we as fans may find it hard to see the Steelers take the field without these guys on the roster, it's part of life in the NFL.

Chris Hoke decided to call an end to his career and ride off into retirement. Aaron Smith seems to be likely to follow him. This obviously leaves somewhat of a hole along our defensive front, but the front office has been proactive, drafting Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward at the top of the draft over the last 3 years.

We all knew this day would come. Now it's just up to the front office to decide who they can afford to keep on the roster, who still has the talent to play on this team, and what players they are going to target in free agency and the draft to fill the holes generated by the cuts that certainly will happen.

The cuts of B-Mac and Battle will likely save about $4.5 million in cap room, leaving us with about $25 million to go. LaMarr Woodley and Ike Taylor have reportedly restructured their contracts, which will save the Steelers some cap room as well.

Contract restructuring is a tool that the front office is likely to utilize as much as they can in the coming weeks. Basically, it's a win-win for everyone. A guy who is due a large amount of salary money this year (such as Woodley's $11.5 million) can take a lower base salary (say, down to $5 million) and get the rest of the money added to his signing bonus. Adding money to the signing bonus enables the cap hit from that money to be spread out over the life of the contract, which is a win for the team. Having the money added to his signing bonus means Woodley gets more money up front, which is good for him.

On a more positive note, the Steelers introduced Todd Haley as the new offensive coordinator this week. For those that have read the blog for a while, you'll know I was not a fan of Bruce Arians and the offense he ran. While the local Pittsburgh media loved Arians (probably because they knew they could get quotes out of him after a game), they acted like the whole offensive coordinator search was some affront to Ben Roethlisberger. Let's set the record straight here. Just because Ben liked Bruce and liked what he was able to do in Arians' offense (namely, play schoolyard ball and throw it all over the field) doesn't mean that's what is best for the team or best for the offense. For the local media to jump on and say that Ben should be allowed to do whatever he wants is like you walking up to some mom at the mall and telling her she should be buying her kids DQ instead of a salad because what they really want is ice cream.
But now Haley is coming in, and from his reputation around the league we know a few things. He is a passionate coach that wants what is best for his players, and isn't afraid to get in their face and tell them that they're wrong. As for offense, he had a top passing attack with an elite QB and WR in Arizona and a top rushing attack with one of the best backs in the league in Kansas City. What does that tell me? That Haley is adaptable to the players that he has on the team and will build an offense designed to maximize the talent we have on the roster. Of course, that's me saying this in February. We'll see what happens when September rolls around.

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