INDIANAPOLIS - He is a Pro Bowl linebacker in the prime of his career. He is versatile enough to play in any defensive scheme.
And Adalius Thomas probably has only a slightly better chance of landing in Pittsburgh than a spaceship, even though the Steelers are a team in transition and have a need at linebacker.
Thomas is the marquee name in this year's free-agent class, but the Steelers' approach to this phase of player acquisition typically has been a restrained one.
Which makes them unlikely to get into the bidding war that is sure to ensue over Thomas and other premier free agents such as cornerback Nate Clements when the signing period begins Friday.
"I think our personality is our personality in terms of free agency," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "It doesn't mean you can't get quality players."
The Steelers showed that in recent years, signing guard/center Jeff Hartings (2001) and inside linebacker James Farrior (2002), but they haven't strayed from their philosophy of spending prudently as opposed to lavishly.
Steelers president Art Rooney II flew into Indianapolis last Friday, so he could meet with Tomlin and director of football operations Kevin Colbert over the weekend and finalize the plan the team will take into free agency.
Tomlin and Colbert are at the NFL Scouting Combine evaluating prospects for the draft. Their focus shifts this week to free agency, and in both areas the Steelers have been tight-lipped about what positions they will try to address.
"We're an 8-8 team. We've got to leave no stone unturned," Tomlin said last week on the subject of the Steelers and free agency. "We've got to look to upgrade most positions, so that's our mentality. Are we capable of doing that? No. We're in the process of prioritizing what we need to get done, so that's how we'll approach it."
Tomlin has said the Steelers need another running back to complement Pro Bowler Willie Parker. That is as specific as he has gotten about where the Steelers have needs.
The Steelers have started preliminary talks with seven players who will be free agents after the 2007 season.
Colbert said discussions with representatives of guards Alan Faneca and Kendall Simmons, safety Troy Polamalu, linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, defensive end Aaron Smith and fullback Dan Kreider will determine where each side stands in regard to working out a contract extension and how feasible it is.
The Steelers are not believed to have much room under the salary cap -- it is projected at $109 million this season -- but they could free up money for free agency in a number of ways, including agreeing to contract extensions with some of the aforementioned veterans.
"A player gets signed long-term, we get short-term relief," said Colbert, adding that a contract extension would allow the Steelers to lessen the amount of money that particular player would count against the salary cap next season. "So if you can do that, that's good."
Porter, who gets a $1 million bonus if he is on the roster March 6, is set to make $4 million this season, while Smith is owed $3.5 million and Faneca is due $3.375 million in base salary.
One reason the Steelers are unlikely to sign a top-tier free agent is the market itself.
Free agency in the NFL is a bit if a misnomer because teams can still prevent a player whose contract has expired from leaving, thus driving up the value of the players that do hit the open market.
A handful of teams have already used their franchise tag to hold onto players for at least another season.
The franchise tag requires teams to pay a player the average of the top five salaries at his position, but they don't have to outbid other teams for him.
"Free agency as it was six, seven, eight years ago isn't the same because, No. 1, teams are keeping their good players, and No. 2, they are using the (franchise) tag when it's necessary and advantageous to do so," Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith said.
"I think everybody kind of has visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads and as you go through, Indy tags a player, Cincy does and all the sudden a lot of the difference-makers aren't there," Tennessee Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. "That being said, if you do your homework in free agency, you can find players that will help your roster."
The Steelers don't have any starters from last year that are unrestricted free agents, and only one (offensive tackle Max Starks) is a restricted free agent.
Their free-agent losses will be minimal, though the same also could be true of their gains.
The one thing that can be said about free agency in any year is that it is necessary for teams to have contingency plans -- and contingency plans for those contingency plans.
"No one really knows where it goes," Colbert said of free agency, "because once you start talking to a player, then maybe you decide you really want that player and then maybe you decide 'Well, I need more cap room to be able to afford that player, so how do you get more cap room, and that may dictate your decision."