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NFL

Combine notebook: Steelers, Cowboys projected to be over new cap figure

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 7:27 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS — With the NFL salary cap expected to climb by $7 million, from $123 million to $130 million, the Cowboys and Steelers are the only teams currently over the projected cap. The Steelers are about $9 million over.

Players make 48 percent of revenues, so a $130 million cap would suggest teams average $270 million in revenue. But general manager Kevin Colbert said the Steelers won't see the final numbers until just before the start of free agency March 11.

“We have to prepare for the worst and see where it lands,” Colbert said. “You don't want to have a false hope it's going to be there and then it's not.”

• The Steelers haven't hired an analytical expert to help with scouting, player assessment or contract negotiations. Even without one, Colbert said the amount of information available on players — including those at the combine — is “overwhelming.” “You still have to go by what you're seeing when they play,” he said. “You have to be true to evaluations of film, games and practices and not get caught up with all the buzz. Hype is great, and it helps make our game great, but when you're evaluating, you try to remove that emotion and make the decision based on how the guy plays football.”

• Might the Steelers substitute one punter from Australia (Brad Wing) for another (free agent Mat McBriar)? Wing was one of the college football's best punters for LSU in 2012 but dealt with on- and off-field issues and wasn't drafted a year ago. The Steelers recently signed him. “It's a no-lose situation for us,” said Colbert. “He got married recently and has a child, and players mature as the years go. If we weren't comfortable with (his) character, we don't sign him.”

• Coach Joe Philbin became the first Dolphins coach to talk publicly since the NFL released the Ted Wills report detailing lineman Richie Incognito's harassment of teammate Jonathan Martin. Philbin called the conduct “inappropriate and unacceptable” and vowed to make sure there is a better workplace environment. “I promise you that,” he said. “I'm going to make sure that happens.”

• The Steelers didn't try to sign wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to a long-term contract before last season, and there appears to be little to no chance they will re-sign him. “Where he goes in free agency and what his market is, we don't know at this point,” Colbert said.

• Wide receiver Markus Wheaton recently had clean-up surgery on the broken pinky finger that kept him out about a month last season. Otherwise, Colbert said, the Steelers are healthier coming out of this season than he can remember in any previous year.

• The NFL is so pass oriented, the Steelers played their sub package defense with extra defensive backs 60 percent of the time. The Steelers have depth issues at cornerback, and this is considered to be a strong draft class in the secondary. “I don't think corners in our scheme are as unique as maybe the outside linebackers would be. You're looking for a guy who can cover and who can tackle,” Colbert said. “I don't think cornerback is unique for us, our scheme or any scheme.”

— Alan Robinson

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