Share This Page

Steelers won't rule out tagging NT Hampton

Casey Hampton has made it clear he does not want the Steelers to use a franchise tag on him.

In less than two weeks, the Steelers may do so anyway and tell the five-time Pro Bowler that it is simply business.

By tagging Hampton, the Steelers would effectively deny the veteran nose tackle the chance to hit the open market.

"Our stance on the tag is that while we don't like to use (it), we're never going to say that we're not going to use something that is collectively bargained as a tool in this process," Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert said Friday.

Translation: the Steelers will use a franchise tag on Hampton as a last resort March 5, when the free-agent signing period starts.

Hampton, 32, who seeks a multi-year contract from the Steelers or the freedom to shop himself around, told the Tribune-Review last week that "it's going to be a problem if I get franchised."

If the Steelers place the franchise tag on Hampton, they would have to offer the unrestricted free agent a one-year contract worth a little more than $7.74 million.

The two sides don't have much time to negotiate the kind of deal that Hampton covets.

Colbert said the Steelers won't seriously negotiate with Hampton until after they have completed their evaluation of the 2010 free agent class near the end of next week.

That will give the Steelers until Feb. 25 to work out a multi-year contract with Hampton. The 25th is the deadline for using a franchise or less restrictive transition tag on players.

Along with Hampton, free safety Ryan Clark and kicker Jeff Reed have been identified by the Steelers as top priorities following a review of their own free agents.

Of the seemingly narrow window to sign all or any of the three to long-term contracts, Colbert said: "I think there will be time. We're not looking at it as against the clock or anything like that."

The NFL goes to an uncapped year if the players and owners don't agree on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) before March 5. The two sides appear to be far apart.

In the event of an uncapped year, Colbert said, the Steelers will operate as if they are still bound by spending limitations.

He added that the Steelers will estimate what the cap would have been for 2010 — it was $127 million per team in 2009 — and use that to guide them during the offseason.

Colbert said he doesn't know if an uncapped year will put the spend-conscious Steelers at a competitive disadvantage.

"It's hard to predict,'' Colbert said. "We don't concern ourselves with that as long as we're doing business the way we feel that's best."

Note: Steelers scout Mark Gorscak will be inducted into the Mid Mon Valley All Sports Hall of Fame in June. The Donora native recently got elected to a group whose members include Joe Montana, Stan Musial, Ken Griffey Sr. and Steelers college scouting coordinator Ron Hughes.

Sitting down with Kevin Colbert.

The Steelers' director of football operations talked with reporters Friday for the first time this offseason. Here are some highlights:

» The Steelers are looking to add depth at every position other than quarterback, and they will be aggressive in trying to upgrade their roster. "I think if you enter the season with the same group that you ended the season, you might expect the same result because we're a 9-7 team at this point," Colbert said. "Sure, some players will improve and some players will regress. You just hope the improvements outweigh the regressions, and you hope that the players you add will add depth and competition."

» The Steelers should be able to find players that can help them throughout the 2010 NFL draft. "I think the quality of the draft is excellent _ very deep defensively," Colbert said. "Offensively, there may not be as many big-name skill positions, but there are a lot of players. It's really a good draft."

» The Steelers will focus on free agency and the draft, Colbert said, before trying to sign players going into the final year of their contracts to long-term deals.

» Colbert said he "is totally happy in my position at this point." Colbert has been linked with former Steelers coach Bill Cowher when the latter is mentioned for head-coaching jobs since the two worked together from 2000-06.

Steelers' free-agent watch

Director of football operations Kevin Colbert said the Steelers have not ruled out re-signing any of their unrestricted free agents.

Here are the players on that list:

NT Casey Hampton — Tagging him may be unavoidable - and potentially unpleasant.

S Ryan Clark — Clark wants to stay, and Steelers will welcome him if the price is right.

K Jeff Reed — He'll be back next season as both sides want Reed to stay in Pittsburgh.

RB Willie Parker — "Fast Willie" is as good as gone unless suitors are scarce.

S Tyrone Carter — He can't return as anything more than the team's No. 4 safety.

CB Deshea Townsend — Smarts and versatility make him a valuable reserve.

QB Charlie Batch — Steelers told Batch they want him back as No. 3 QB.

DE Travis Kirschke — A solid backup but risky at his age - 36 at start of season.

DE Nick Eason — The Steelers will likely bring back Kirschke or Eason but not both.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.