The Steelers must make some "tough decisions" in the coming weeks as they tackle what club president Art Rooney said is "probably as big an issue as we've had to face" regarding the salary cap.
The Steelers are about $25 million over a salary cap expected to be around $124 million per team next season and must erase that excess by March 13. That obviously could involve some of their older and more recognized players but Rooney would not speculate on whether certain players, such as Hines Ward and James Farrior, would return in 2012.
"We're just at the beginning of the process,'' Rooney said.
He did say he has talked already to Ward about his future and plans to speak again with him and to others in the organization about his status for next season.
However, Rooney emphasized that it's "not a situation where we're looking to tear things apart and start over.''
"Obviously, we have some decisions to make with certain players and their contracts,'' Rooney said.
Rooney, in a candid 30-minute interview this afternoon, touched on a number of subjects, some of which have not been broached previously.
-- Ben Roethlisberger needs to take fewer sacks as he turns 30.
-- He expects his father, Dan Rooney, to step down as ambassador to Ireland and return to the Steelers organization in some capacity in 2012, although he does not have a specific date.
-- No question, Rooney said, that wide receiver Mike Wallace "will be one of the priorities" this year. Wallace becomes a restricted free agent March 13.
-- The Steelers will add 3,000 seats to Heinz Field after the 2012 season. They will be in the open end zone, where the temporary seats were installed for the Penguins' Winter Classic.
-- Rooney said that a few coaches also are considering retirement, but would not say which ones.
-- He called the Steelers' 29-23 loss on the first play of overtime in the wildcard playoff game at Denver "the worst ending to a playoff game" he has experienced. He said, however, that injuries were not to blame.
-- "We didn't reach our ultimate goal,'' Rooney said. "But on the other side, there are positive things we can take out of it.'' Among those: A good mix of younger players and older players, including younger players they signed to long-term deals last year that they hope to become a new core for the future.
-- As for some of the negatives: "We need to take fewer sacks,'' need to be more consistent on offense, need to do better than No. 21 in scoring, need to come up with more sacks and turnovers on defense.
"Those are areas we want to try to be better at next year,'' Rooney said.
-- He thought Mike Tomlin and his coaches "did a good job,'' especially because of the lockout that put "more pressure" on the coaching staff.