The Steelers have slammed the door shut on any new contract extensions for players this year, at least one month early.
"As an organization we decided we're going to focus on 2010," Kevin Colbert said Monday.
Colbert, the team's director of football operations, had a long talk with linebacker LaMarr Woodley over lunch and said the team also informed tackle Willie Colon, cornerback Ike Taylor and kicker Jeff Reed, all starters working on the final year of their contract.
Woodley and Reed had been outspoken about the lack of negotiations with the team to try to reach contract extensions. The only contract extensions the Steelers have signed recently were those of five years for Colbert and two years and an option for coach Mike Tomlin.
The players will have to wait, at least until after the 2010 season.
"We're at the point now where we always go where we can go, then we decide we have to move on with the season and we've reached that decision," Tomlin said.
The question becomes if that decision affects the players involved and if they let it infect the locker room.
"I'm playing football," declared Woodley, the team sack leader last season who is set to make a $550,000 salary in the fourth year of his rookie contract. "I'm not going to have no contract on my mind out there while I'm playing football. If I have contract on my mind, I'm going to get knocked upside my head and I can't go out and help this team win.
"When I'm out on the field, I'm not thinking, 'Oh, man, contract this and that; I don't want to get hurt.' If you're out there thinking about those things, that's when you get hurt, that's when you go out there and you don't perform as well and don't help your team out. I can't be one of those guys."
Hines Ward, an offensive captain, believes the players involved just happened to have their contracts break at the wrong time with the NFL's collective bargaining agreement set to end in 2011 and no new one in sight.
"It's uncertainty," Ward said. "We don't know what next year holds. It's just unfortunate when you got drafted. There's nothing you can do about it. Some guys are going to be mad. But how can you sign somebody if there's going to be a lockout next year? How do you determine a long-term contract?"
Ward also does not think it will hurt the team's chances this season.
"Nobody on this team or in the organization knows what's going to happen next year. Let's just enjoy what we got while we're playing and deal with that in theoffseason. In the offseason, you can be mad or do whatever you want, but, if there's no football, there's nothing you can do about it. It's unfortunate, where there is uncertainty and we don't know if we'll play next year or not.
"Trust me, guys aren't even talking about that. We're just trying to win it this year."
Some people around the Steelers were still shaking their heads over how Maurkice Pouncey injured his hamstring Sunday morning, but Pouncey was not among them.
"I was late," Pouncey explained.
Tomlin scheduled the team's first-round draft pick to be on the field at 6 a.m. Saturday to go through his run test, even though he did not arrive on campus until five hours earlier after signing his contract.
Pouncey completed the test -- "with flying colors," he said -- and then had a nice first two practices at training camp . One thing bothered Tomlin, however; Pouncey did not show for his test until 6:15 a.m. So he made him go through another run Sunday, which is when he developed a hamstring problem that has kept him out the past two days.
"Pouncey is pretty close with his [injury] based on testing results we got, so there's encouragement there," Tomlin said.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hopes kids will continue to wear his No. 7 jersey, despite his troubles.
"I've always had a soft spot in my heart for kids. It's always been one of my weaknesses. A lot of the times kids don't know any better. Kids usually support and appreciate me. It's usually the parent that doesn't. And that's fine, I am not saying that's wrong. I don't know what this year is going to entail. I don't know if anyone will wear my jersey, but this is not going to be an overnight process. This is something that is going to take time."
He says while he got too caught up in being "Big Ben," he does not want to shelve his nickname.
"On the field, I love it. I like when a little kid comes up and tries to say my last name but he can't do it, and says, "Big Ben." Or if I am walking I hear someone say it, to me it's a neat thing because that's about me on the football field. The Big Ben thing is about how I play the game. For a kid or a young adult to say that it means that they look up to me in a way, and so I like it. But, off the field, they can call me that. But that's not who I am going to be, I will keep that for the football field."