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Roethlisberger talk takes back seat to free agency, draft

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looks for a receiver against the Dolphins on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, at Heinz Field.

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By Alan Robinson
Sunday, March 23, 2014, 8:33 p.m.
 

ORLANDO, Fla. — Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert both spoke about the state of the Steelers as the annual NFL meetings opened at an opulent resort befitting a sport that will pay its players $4.5 billion this season.

As it turned out, there was a lot of non-talking, too.

Colbert isn't ready to start talking about a new contract with franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is signed through 2015. And Tomlin isn't speculating whether a team that has subtracted more players than it has added after a second successive 8-8 record is improved.

With free agency not yet over and the draft still to come, and the Steelers seeking help at running back, wide receiver and linebacker among other positions, Tomlin said Sunday the offseason grade is an incomplete.

The Steelers signed safety Mike Mitchell, wide receiver Lance Moore and defensive lineman Cam Thomas, but shed linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Larry Foote, wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, running back Jonathan Dwyer and defensive linemen Ziggy Hood and Al Woods.

“We're talking about probably as many as 10 more people who could be on our football team who aren't on our team as we sit here today,” Tomlin said. “So it would be very premature of me to measure this group against that last group at this juncture. We are still very much in the process of building for 2014.”

Normally, such a process includes working out a new contract with the quarterback.

But while the Steelers are risking that Roethlisberger might flirt with free agency and the megadeal that could await, should they allow him to go into a contract year in 2015, they might not make a big push to re-sign him this summer.

“We'll get through free agency, get through the draft and see where we are,” said Colbert, the Steelers' general manager. “Traditionally, we have done quarterbacks (contracts) two years out, but as (team president) Art (Rooney) stated, we may or may not be in a position to do something this summer.”

Given the $100 million-plus contracts signed by quarterbacks Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan in the past 13 months, the perennially salary cap-challenged Steelers can only guess what Roethlisberger might want. His deal pays him a combined $23 million over the next two years, with a cap hit of $37.2 million.

“What happens in the market, you're aware of what's going on, but it doesn't set the (negotiating) parameters,” Colbert said. “I believe the parameters that are set are set by the team and the player, what we would be willing to do and what the player is willing to accept.”

As free agency continues, the Steelers will meet early this week with Bills linebacker Arthur Moats and, Friday, with Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew visited last week but left without a contract.

Those meetings will be in Pittsburgh, far away from the $499 rack-rate rooms at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, where signs denoting the NFL meetings aren't merely displayed on placards but are hand-painted on several walls.

“We have things that we feel we need to get done to insulate ourselves on both sides of the ball,” Tomlin said. “And what we don't get done in free agency, we intend to finish off in the draft.”

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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