On the issue of the Steelers 2010 season, Kevin Colbert is not conflicted. Not at all. It is said that professional sports is a bottom-line business, and the Steelers director of football operations is a bottom-line guy.
"As I have said, we were good enough for second, but second's not good enough," said Colbert. "We were one play away from being a World Champion, but we can't go into next year thinking we're one play away. We have to start over."
In the immediate aftermath of a 2009 season that ended with a 9-7 record and no spot in the playoffs, Colbert offered a blunt assessment of the team. In it, he said he viewed the 2009 Steelers, despite being just months removed from the sixth championship in franchise history, to be exactly what their record indicated – a mediocre team not good enough to squeeze into the playoffs.
One calendar year later, Colbert has not deviated from the method he uses to evaluate a particular Steelers team's performance in a given season, no matter how harsh is may seem.
"We should be judged on what our final record was and where we ended the season," said Colbert. "Obviously we were a better team than we were in 2009, and so you hope that going into the next season more players will progress than regress.
"But anytime we go into a season, if we don't win a Super Bowl championship, in our eyes, it's a failure. Did we have a better chance this year than we had the previous year? Sure. But I don't feel any different today than I did last year at this time. We're still not where we wanted to be."
When the calendar hits mid-February comes the time when Colbert and the rest of the team's player personnel department go to work on what ultimately ends up being the 80-man roster the Steelers take to training camp. But there is nothing typical about this offseason, what with the NFL's collective bargaining agreement due to expire on March 4.
The only things certain at this point for the NFL are that the Combine will be held as scheduled in Indianapolis next week and that there will be a 2011 NFL Draft in late April. Another certainty is the manner in which the Steelers will continue to operate within the NFL, which is to use the draft as the primary method of adding talent while trying to keep as many of their own players as is possible.
Based on the criteria that had been in place before the uncapped year regarding free agency, the Steelers will have two restricted free agents and 14 unrestricted free agents.
The UFAs are RB Mewelde Moore, TE Matt Spaeth, G Trai Essex, Ts Willie Colon and Jonathan Scott, NT Chris Hoke, DE Nick Eason, ILB Keyaron Fox, OLB LaMarr Woodley, CBs William Gay, Anthony Madison and Ike Taylor, P Daniel Sepulveda and LS Greg Warren. The two RFAs are QB Dennis Dixon and T Tony Hills.
It's unlikely the Steelers will be able to get any of their unrestricted free agents under contract before March 4, what with the combination of the re-signing rules for the uncapped year and the uncertainty over whatever particulars might be negotiated into the next CBA combining to paralyze any such efforts by teams across the whole league.
The Steelers, like all teams, have a franchise player tag and a transition tag available to be used by Feb. 24, and it would make perfect sense for them to use the franchise tag on Woodley, even though what "franchise tag" comes to mean in the new CBA is another of the unknowns.
"We'd like to retain all of our potential free agents, if possible," said Colbert. "I would think we would still evaluate our team as we always have and look at potentially who we could lose and who we could retain (in free agency), in addition to what we could add through the draft."
Colbert did say the team would like to have Flozell Adams back for a 14th NFL season, and he is under contract to the team for 2011. It has been reported that Adams is at his home in Dallas and trying to decide whether he wants to play another season.
"Flozell was a big part of our success this past season," said Colbert. "Anytime you bring in someone from the outside, if your coaches haven't had a chance to coach this player before, you really don't know what you're getting. The pleasant surprise was seeing what Flozell could do physically at this stage of his career, and then the things that really caught my attention were his professionalism in accepting a move to right tackle after having been a player of status at left tackle, and the quiet leadership he brought to an unstable situation because of all the injuries we had."
STEELERS NOTES: The team did sign six of the seven players who ended the season on their practice squad. Re-signed were WR Tyler Grisham, S Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, T Kyle Jolly, DE Sunny Harris, TE Eugene Bright and OLB Chris Ellis. FB Frank Summers signed with the San Diego Chargers. The eighth practice squad player – G Dorian Brooks – had been added to the 53-man roster for Super Bowl XLV when Maurkice Pouncey was placed on the injured reserve list ... The Steelers also signed WR Wes Lyons to a Reserve/Future contract. Lyons (6-8, 230) originally signed with the New York Jets in 2010 as an undrafted rookie out of West Virginia. He is a Pittsburgh native who attended Woodland Hills High School.