LATROBE, Pa. – It turns out the Steelers still have some room under the salary cap, and General Manager Kevin Colbert said today that the team is in a spending mood.
Certain estimates have put the Steelers as having $6.5 million worth of room on their 2014 cap, but Colbert said he believes the actual number is "less than that." But even so, that could be enough space to get some deals done between now and the start of the 2014 regular season, which is when the team cuts off all such negotiations.
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"We still have a group of pending free agents for the 2015 offseason, and we still have a good four weeks to try to get something done," said Colbert, "and that's where we are right now."
Among the candidates would be four starters who are entering the final years of their current contracts – Marcus Gilbert, Shaun Suisham, Jason Worilds, and Cortez Allen.
"How much and how many, it's hard to say because one deal will affect another deal, so again we'll see," said Colbert. "We'd like to do as much business as we can within our constraints, both time-wise and cap-wise."
Colbert said that any such spending spree also would be limited to a degree by the amount of money the Steelers will hold in reserve for the 2014 season. The reason a team holds some salary cap money in reserve is because, say, it has to sign a starting-caliber player in the days immediately after a regular season opener, which was the case in 2013 with Fernando Velasco.
"It used to be comfortable having enough money to replace four players (over the course of a season)," said Colbert. "But in recent years, I think our average number of players on injured reserve has been over 10. It's just the reality of the injury situation. It's not unique to us."
So, subtracting a couple of million for emergencies would leave about $3-4 million. And having $3-4 million in cap room to extend the contracts of veteran starters is not a big number, but there could be ways in which the Steelers can get a deal done that satisfies a player while lowering the cap hit in 2014 for that individual. Such as an example would be Jason Worilds, who currently counts $9.7 million on the 2014 cap after signing the one-year transition tender. If the sides could come to an agreement on a long-term extension for Worilds, for example, it would certainly lower his cap number for 2014.
Other topics covered by Colbert:
On whether the team might look to a free agent receiver if this group doesn't pan out:
"I don't worry about the final 53 at this point in time. What you have to realize is that right now everybody is at 90 players, and then everybody has to cut 37 players to get to 53. Thirty-seven times 32 is … so there will be players who are going to be cut who maybe will be better than some of the guys we have on our 53. There's no panic at this point because there's going to be a whole other group of players, both young and old, who will become available when teams make their cuts. You may add somebody at that point. But right now, if you're looking for immediate help with everybody at 90 players, it's a struggle because the rosters are full and who's on the street is limited. We're still a long way away from the first game."
On what is most likely to determine the success of the 2014 Steelers:
"I think it's youth. We're a younger team. We only have four starters over the age of 30: Ben, Heath, Troy, and Ike. We're a much younger team, and I believe the success of this team will be determined by the pace at which the young group develops. Not just this year's draft class, but last year's. We expect more from Jarvis Jones, we expect more from Le'Veon Bell, we expect more from Marcus Wheaton, and if they progress like we expect, in addition to this year's class, then we might have something."
On the possibility of re-signing Brett Keisel:
"We haven't eliminated any players because you never know what might happen over the course of a preseason. If we ever do eliminate a player, we always tell the player that he has been eliminated.