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Colbert not detailing Steelers plan for free agency or new contracts

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 2:48 p.m.
Chaz Palla I Tribune-Reivew
General manager Kevin Colbert isn’t dropping any hints about whether any of the Steelers’ nearly two dozen free agents will return in 2014, saying there is still much shaking out to occur around the NFL before the start of free agency March 11.

Missing the playoffs in successive seasons for the first time since he became the Steelers general manager in 2000 apparently has Kevin Colbert rethinking how to manage the salary cap.

The Steelers were mostly successful from 2001-11 by keeping a core group of players, even as they negotiated the second or third contracts of their careers. But the longer the players stayed, the more salary-cap space they consumed.

Colbert contends the Steelers are not mismanaging the cap, even though they've been forced frequently to restructured contracts just to get under the cap, as they did with cornerback Ike Taylor at midseason.

But Colbert said Wednesday the Steelers “have some work to do” to get under the cap by the start of free agency March 11; they're $10.65 million over, a number exceeded by only the Cowboys and Saints.

Might the success that teams such as the Broncos and Patriots have despite regularly turning over their rosters cause the Steelers to reconsider how they do business?

“There's not one model for each team to follow. You had the Super Bowl champion (Seahawks) with a very young quarterback (Russell Wilson), so their model is completely different than ours, Colbert said. “How it comes together over the years when you're trying to keep it (a winning team) together, it varies from team to team.

“But when you go 8-8 in successive years, you have to be open to changing it because we don't want to be 8-8 again.”

Still, Colbert said, “We're never going to say, ‘OK, we know we're not a contender. We've got to gut this thing and start over.' ”

Colbert did not detail how the Steelers will get under the cap — releasing offensive tackle Levi Brown and his $6.5 million cap hit will help — except that it will occur as usual via “terminations, restructures and extensions.”

He also wouldn't say if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger might get a new contract; the quarterback's cap hit climbs from $13.6 million in 2013 to $18.9 million in 2014.

Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley has missed 14 games and parts of others over the past three seasons, but Colbert wouldn't say if the Steelers are weighing whether to cut the former Pro Bowl linebacker. If he is cut, his contract would could more than $14 million against the cap either this season or over the next two seasons.

Colbert also said:

• The Steelers “probably aren't as deep (at safety and cornerback)” as he would like.

• The second 8-8 record in as many seasons is a “disappointment,” despite the 6-2 finish. “If we don't accept the fact that we're 8-8, we're going to mislead ourselves, and we can't do that.”

• New defensive assistant Joey Porter was eager to rejoin the Steelers and could greatly help linebacker Jarvis Jones. “He and Jarvis are very similar in stature, so I think there are some things he'll share with Jarvis that will help.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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