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Veteran dynamic could be changing for the Steelers

More cuts are coming for the Steelers, and contract restructures as well.  Kevin Colbert, Steelers GM mentioned as much several times in recent interviews with the local media and also at the 2012 NFL Combine during his media session.  We don’t know how many more or who might be involved in having their contract restructured (or  terminated) but Steelers insider Gerry Dulac of the Post Gazette tweeted out:

@gerrydulac: Ben’s restructure puts Steelers very close to cap number. But more moves to come. 3 of 4 prob won’t be back – Ward, Smith, Farrior, Foote.

None of these names would come as any major surprise to most as each one carries some combination of a significant cap hit, coming off an injury, or just at the end of their career. Honestly, losing all 4 or even 3 of these players would be blow not so much from a production standpoint but from a leadership standpoint. These are players who have Super Bowl rings and have been with the team since before Tomlin arrived.  Their presence in the locker room alone is something that you hate to lose.

All would not be lost if these players were not retained in 2012; veterans like Polamalu, Clark, Harrison, Woodley, & Roethlisberger have taken on significant leadership roles in recent years. Still though, losing the old vets would leave a void to some degree and test the resolve of the current roster in important situations both on and off the field.

Father time is an inevitable foe that even the best of the best in the professional sports world cannot conquer. No matter how things turn out, each of these 4 has their legacy in Pittsburgh cemented in the hearts and minds of the team and the fans.

Hines Ward: The sentimental fan favorite for the last 14 years, the underdog out of Georgia who worked his way up from special teams to Super Bowl MVP.  Mike Tomlin and the coaching staff decided to cut Ward’s playing time significantly in favor the younger Wallace, Brown, and Sanders trio. Hines got his 1000th reception this past year and holds nearly every significant receiving record in team history.  While he still wants to play for the team, and they’ve said there is no decision on his status yet, he’s an obvious possibility to be released.

James Farrior: The great “Potsie”, unquestioned leader of the defense on the field and quiet but commanding presence in the locker room is in the twilight of his career. He’s got 1 year left on his contract (base salary of $2.825 million). Last season he split time with Larry Foote and neither was particularly effective on a consistent basis. Farrior can still play the run but was vulnerable when dropping into pass coverage.

Larry Foote: Always one my favorites, Foote have been a great teammate over the years and spent the majority of his career a long side Farrior in the middle. Foote counts about $3 million against the cap and is signed through the end of 2012. Either he or Farrior could take a restructure to come back and play in a reserve role but it’s unlikely that both will return.

Aaron Smith: The unsung hero of the Steelers defense, he has been the model of how to play defensive end in the 34 defense. Injuries and age have caught up to Smith though in the last few years and he’s missed significant time.  His contract expires after this coming season, thanks to a restructure last year that added another year to ease the cap burden. In the last 3 seasons he’s only played in 15 games and recent draft picks like Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward have taken on a bigger role.

I’ve been watching all of these players since they came into the league and I consider it a privilege to have  seen them play and give their all to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  If things work out then we’ll get to see them play for another year, but reality is harsh at times and the future is on the roster or the draft board as we speak.


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