By Teresa Varley
One of the first moves the Steelers made in free agency this year wasn't signing a player, but instead releasing guard Kendall Simmons.
Simmons, who the team drafted in the first round in 2002, was let go on Thursday after missing the majority of the 2008 season with an Achilles injury.
"Kendall was a big part of both championships though his play this season was limited due to injuries," said director of football operations Kevin Colbert. "And all indications are that he will make a full recovery from his injury at some point. It's still undetermined what that point will be. We had to make some decisions as to try to figure out when he would be available and if we could afford to basically carry it."
While the move was deemed necessary by the team, it wasn't an easy decision.
"We don't like doing these things," said Colbert. "He is recovering from a pretty serious injury and indications are that he will be available at some point for the '09 season. It's hard to determine when that will be and we felt we could use the maneuverability in the cap even though it doesn't give us immediate cap relief."
Colbert would not rule out bringing back any of the team's free agents, with the exception of one, tackle Marvel Smith, mainly because of the team placing the franchise tag on tackle Max Starks.
"It's safe to say that Marvel, in fairness to him, probably won't be back because of what we've done with Max," said Colbert. "Everybody else we're still talking to."
Starks has already signed the tender for the franchise tag and now the goal on both sides is to keep him in place in Pittsburgh for a long time.
"Max is of the mindset he wants to do a long-term deal," said Colbert. "Max wants to be here, I believe, for the rest of his career. We'd love to have that just as much as he would. It's just a matter of they didn't know what his market was. We're trying to get there. You have to make a decision. You can say the player will sign a one-year deal, which he did and he is guaranteed that money if we don't extend him. His intention was I am going to sign this, but let's continue to talk. If we didn't think we could get the possibility of a long-term deal done we wouldn't have franchised him."
The Steelers continue to talk to linebacker James Harrison about a contract extension. Harrison, the NFL's defensive player of the year, is entering the last year of his current deal.
"It's continuing and that's all positive," said Colbert. "He was here (Thursday)."
The Steelers will have eight picks in the 2009 NFL Draft, with the possibility of a compensatory pick. The team got one extra pick when they traded center Sean Mahan to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prior to the start of the season. Compensatory picks are announced around the time of the owners meetings.