Is it too early to start thinking about 2013?
Yes I know the 2012 season hasn't even really started yet, but I think this draft and the impact it might make will be huge once 2013 comes around. I think we all can agree about a few things. This will be Casey Hampton's final season one way or another. I think its nuts to keep him around with all the recent injury's he's had for the kind of money he's making. Maybe the Steelers draft his heir apparent in this draft maybe not. It's all but certain they will try and grab a DT/NT this draft, but with Poe now out of reach is there anyone after him who could fill the bill? Maybe Martin, Chapman, Hicks, whoever it will be they need to be the kind of mountain in the middle Hampton has been.
Now how about Mike Wallace? If he stays in Pittsburgh this year will it be a 1 year contract? If so and he doesn't sign a long term deal, that will put the Steelers in the same position with him next year. Only difference is he will be a UFA not an RFA. Speaking of RFAís thatís what Brown and Sanders will be next year, setting up a situation in 2013 that will be even stickier to deal with. That being said, look at some of the contracts some of the WR's this year have received so far. Robert Meachem and Josh Morgan in my opinion are lesser WR's then Wallace and both are making in the neighborhood of 6mil/yr. That kind of puts into perspective where the future contracts of Wallace, Brown and maybe Sandersí are headed. And itís all headed for another cap mess in 2013.
So my next big piece to the puzzle involves James Harrison. By the time the 2013 season starts he will be 35. Yes he's a great OLB but he also has great negatives. The big one is his age, which brings along with it a greater chance for injury and possible decline in production. He like Hampton this season will carry a huge chunk of money for by NFL standards, such an old player. He also has the target on his back positioned there by Goodell and Co. So would it be beneficial for the Steelers to cut ties with him after this season? I think so. Something again will have break in order to free up more cap space. So if he is gone after 2012, like Porter, Gildon and Greene before him, who is his heir apparent? Woirlds, Carter or maybe a draft pick this year? I'd love to see the Steelers draft WVU's Bruce Irvin. He has the athleticism and speed to be that guy. But in reality I doubt he will last much past the 2nd round. The need for the OL defiantly needs more attention. And if an OL isn't drafted in the 1st, it's almost a certainty they will reach for one in the 2nd.
So let's play Nostradamus for a minute. Let's say Wallace is signed by another team before the draft and that gives the Steelers another 1st/rd pick. Assuming it will be after the 20th pick a guy like Irvin or even Zach Brown could be considered. That might take care of the OLB position if Harrison were to be released after 2012.
Then we have our favorite OC Haley. How will he alter the offense? If Wallace is lost and the "emphasis" by Rooney on regaining the running game actually is implemented then losing Wallace really wouldnít be that bad. That will undoubtedly depend on if Cotchery is signed and the health of Sanders. Sure Wallace is one of if not the biggest deep threats in the league and was Antonio Brownís big 2011 a result of Wallace being on the other side? Maybe, maybe not. If it was up to me and Iím sure a lot of other fans Iíd rather have Wallace then not. And Iím sure Colbert and Tomlin are doing all they can to make sure heís a Steeler for the long term.
Now let say Wallace stays this year. Does he except the 1st round tender offer like a team player or does he play the diva role like DeSean Jackson did last year? This I think will be very fascinating watching how it plays out.
There are still a lot of unknowns left to play out until 2012 starts. And I sure havenít mentioned all the factors that will be involved. But one thing is for sure, 2013 looks like its going to be just as rocky an off-season as 2012 has been.