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Agents: Defensive end Smith, guard Kemoeatu are released by Steelers

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By Scott Brown
Friday, March 2, 2012

A day after informing receiver Hines Ward of his imminent release, the Steelers did the same with another player who will go down among their all-time greats.

The Steelers' offseason purge continued Thursday, as they told Aaron Smith, arguably the best 3-4 defensive end of his era, and guard Chris Kemoeatu that they would be released.

The Steelers did not announce any roster moves Thursday, but the agents for Smith and Kemoeatu confirmed that both players will be released.

The Steelers created more flexibility under the projected 2012 salary cap, as they will save about $4.5 million by not bringing back Smith or Kemoeatu.

Kemoeatu started at left guard for three seasons before losing his job in 2011, in part because of injuries. Smith anchored the defensive line for nearly a decade before injuries conspired against him.

The 6-foot-5, 298-pounder suffered season-ending injuries four of the past five years. The 13-year veteran played four games in 2011 before a neck injury sidelined him.

His injury history, age (35) and the Steelers' need to clear room under the cap made Smith's release predictable.

"No one ever wants to see this day come, but we're not focused on that. We're focusing on the last 14 years," said Smith's agent, Peter Schaffer. "Aaron's got nothing but the highest respect for (the Steelers). He bleeds black and gold."

Unlike Ward, Smith's next move is likely retirement.

He said near the end of last season that he couldn't see himself playing for another team, though Schaffer said he has not talked to Smith about future plans.

"We're celebrating the great career of a great person," Schaffer said.

Smith, a fourth-round pick out of Division II Northern Colorado in 1999, became a full-time starter in his second season and established himself as one of the most underrated players of his time.

Stout against the run, Smith is 10th on the Steelers' all-time sacks list with 44.

The Steelers have created about $37.4 million in salary cap savings with contract restructurings and releases.

Kemoeatu battled myriad injuries last season and fell out of favor after starting 45 games at left guard from 2008-10. The seven-year veteran started eight of 13 games last season and struggled with penalties.

Kemoeatu, a sixth-round pick in 2005, succeeded Alan Faneca, one of the best offensive linemen in team history. After helping the Steelers win the Super Bowl in the 2008 season, Kemoeatu signed a five-year, $20 million contract, turning down an offer from the New York Jets to stay in Pittsburgh.

"The Steelers are a model franchise, and Chris had a very good run there," Kenneth Vierra, who represents Kemoeatu, said via email. "I know that the organization, his teammates and the great Steeler fans will be very close to his heart."

Steelers savings

The Steelers will save about $4.5 million of salary cap space when they formally release offensive lineman Chris Kemoeatu and defensive lineman Aaron Smith. The 2012 cap is projected to be about $120 million. Here is a look at how the team has saved this offseason:

Player: Action — Savings

QB Ben Roethlisberger: Restructure — $8.15 million

LB LaMarr Woodley: Restructure — $6.56 million

LB Lawrence Timmons: Restructure — $5.14 million

WR Hines Ward: Release — $3.37 million

CB Ike Taylor: Restructure — $3.28 million

OL Willie Colon: Restructure — $2.85 million

CB Bryant McFadden: Release — $2.5 million

OL Chris Kemoeatu: Release — $2.39 million

DL Aaron Smith: Release — $2.11 million

WR Arnaz Battle: Release — $1.04 million

Total savings: $37.4 million

Source: Tribune-Review research

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