PHOENIX -- The Steelers may have a new head coach in Mike Tomlin and players who have to get used to a new system and a new way of doing things. But they are hardly bracing for a season in which the team takes a step back because it is adjusting to the kind of change that is rare for the organization.
"There's no reason for us to say we're not going to be a contender this year," Steelers president Art Rooney II said Sunday at the NFL owners' meeting. "We look at it as a team that's obviously one season removed from winning a Super Bowl and a team that has won a lot of games over the last three years.
"There will be a transition. Teams have gone through that before and been successful, so we're keeping our expectations high. I think Mike feels the same way."
Fans who also attach lofty expectations to the Steelers are no doubt a little anxious and not just because the team has a new head coach for the first time since 1992.
The Steelers have added little in the way of free agency -- offensive lineman Sean Mahan is the team's only noteworthy signing to this point -- and did not address the need they have at linebacker.
If the Steelers have been too quiet for fans' liking, Rooney said, that is because they are following the philosophy they have had the last couple of years and concentrating on re-signing their own players.
Progress on that front, Rooney admitted, has been slow.
The team agreed to a contract extension with defensive end Aaron Smith last month, but there are a number of players going into the final year of their contract that the Steelers are still talking to about a long-term deal.
The most notable in that group are guard Alan Faneca and safety Troy Polamalu.
Faneca did not show up last week for the start of offseason conditioning at the Steelers' South Side practice facility, fueling speculation about his long-term future with the team.
Rooney said that the Steelers and Faneca "still got a way to go" in terms of a contract extension, but he added that the perennial Pro Bowler's absence from the workouts, which are not mandatory, did not concern him.
"From what I recall, he has typically not made it to the early part of the offseason workout program," Rooney said.
The Steelers will hold the first of two mini-camps April 19-22 (a second one will take place May 10-13). When asked if he expects Faneca to take part in next month's mini-camp, Rooney said, "I think we expect him to make it."
One factor that may have complicated negotiations between Faneca and the Steelers is the kind of money guards have been fetching during the free-agent signing period.
Eric Steinbach and Derrick Dockery signed seven-year deals for $49.5 million and $49 million, respectively, and neither one has played in a Pro Bowl.
Rooney said getting deals done with Faneca and Polamalu are top priorities for the Steelers.
Other players entering the final year of their contract include offensive tackle Max Starks, outside linebacker Clark Haggans and guard Kendall Simmons.
"There's a pretty good list of guys that we've got to look at between now and the end of training camp," Rooney said. "Right now, we're not going to give up on anybody, but it's fair that it will be hard to sign all of them between now and the end of next season."