Former singer Crystal Gayle was known as much for her hair as she was for her voice. Her long, straight hair went down the center of her back and at one time was nearly touching the floor. The latest rumors are that her hair has been cut to a much more appropriate length meaning it stops just behind her knees. The Pittsburgh Steelers can relate to Gayle’s problem as they have a serious amount of cutting to do and it began yesterday.
The Steelers’ front office announced the release of veterans Bryant McFadden and Arnaz Battle yesterday in what is expected to be the first of many off-season moves in an effort to get the salary cap in line with league standards.
McFadden, a defensive back, was a one-time starter for the Steelers who struggled through some injury issues and eventually found himself on the bench for most of the season with William Gay and Keenan Lewis seeing the majority of time opposite Ike Taylor.
For the solid special teamer in Battle, he is simply a guy lost in the shuffle at a position in wide receiver that just doesn’t have a spot for him. Solid special team players are always crucial but Battle was expendable.
As the important roster days of March come nearer, Battle and McFadden are just the tip of the iceberg for cuts. Here are a couple of key decisions the Steelers are facing;
Hines Ward- Look for Hines to restructure his deal down to around one million per year which I believe he will ultimately agree. Hines won’t really have a ton of leverage considering his down year in 2011 and I don’t believe he’ll be offered much more on the open market.
Casey Hampton- With ‘Big Snack’ coming off ACL surgery he could be a goner, but he seems willing to negotiate. Hampton continues to be relegated to 1st and 2nd downs and with an expected salary of over four million in 2012, Hampton will have to restructure. Steve McClendon was solid when he played the nose tackle position but he doesn’t fit the ‘perfect’ mold because of his height. Much could depend ultimately on what the Steelers do in the draft.
Aaron Smith- One of the great 3-4 defensive ends of all-time would like to play another year for the Steelers, but it is looking more and more likely that the team will not offer him a deal. His injuries have been significant in recent years and are just too much to ignore with such a seasoned veteran. Look for Smith to retire.
James Farrior/Larry Foote- The bottom line here is that the Steelers cannot keep both at what looks to be around six million bucks between the two of them. Each bring something different to the table, but both also have some deficiencies like age working against them. In 2010, Farrior had a really good season after a poor 2009 but I just don’t think father time is going to be as generous this time around. Foote is a good special teamer and can be effective in certain packages on defense but his cap number will need to be greatly reduced for him to stay around. I can pretty safely say one, if not both will be gone for 2012.
As the 2012 off-season continues, look for more rumblings coming from the South Side. LaMarr Woodley has already agreed to restructure his deal and Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison may be asked to as well.
The bottom line is that Steelers’ ‘capologist’ Omar Khan has his work cut out for him but I believe him to be one of the best in the business at this. Besides it could be worse I suppose. At least he isn’t Crystal Gayle’s hairstylist right?