Time running short on negotiating season for Steelers


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There is more tradition to the first day of Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent College than lugging duffel bags into Rooney Hall and then surviving the run test on Chuck Noll Field.

Today also marks the beginning of the final leg of the contract negotiation season. Team officials and players have until Sept. 8 to reach new contracts, a long-held deadline of the regular-season start imposed by the club. They have refused to negotiate contract extensions in-season for the past 20 years.

They have a number of players who qualify for such contracts, but that does not mean they will reach agreements with any -- or even try to. As of today, there were no ongoing contract negotiations with any players.

The Steelers have a policy that they are open to negotiate contract extensions with players who are entering the final year of their contract. They make exceptions for quarterbacks who have two years remaining, a position in which Ben Roethlisberger will find himself next year.

It's possible they will not reach contract extensions with any of their players this summer for a number of reasons. Some might be too old, some might be too inexperienced and some might just not want to come to terms.

Among the more obvious players who are eligible for extensions are Emmanuel Sanders, Ziggy Hood, Jason Worilds, Ryan Clark, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Brett Keisel.

There has been no indication the team has tried to reach new deals with any of them, or that it will this summer. But then, there was no indication last year the team was about to sign Antonio Brown to a contract extension and it did so the first week of training camp.

"We're just sitting dead in the water like everybody else right now," said Joel Turner, Clark's agent. "We're just waiting until camp starts."

Clark, who turns 34 in October, falls into the category of a player on the backside of his career but still performing at a high level. Keisel, who turns 35 in September, is another. The Steelers have phased out their older players the past two seasons, even those such as Casey Hampton and James Harrison who were still effective. But it's possible they could sign Clark and/or Keisel to a one-year extension.

They also have been unable or unwilling to reach contract extensions recently with some of their younger players who left as free agents this year. Those include Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis and Rashard Mendenhall.

The player they would like to keep is Sanders. He has a $2.5 million salary this year, thanks to a qualifying offer from the New England Patriots, and saw how Wallace played out his final season and hit the jackpot with the Miami Dolphins. Wallace signed with the Dolphins for a reported $60 million over five years. The Steelers would not offer him more than what they gave Brown a year ago Saturday -- six years at $42.5 million.

Worilds falls into a category similar to Lewis. How to judge a player's future who has not yet won a starting job? That was Lewis in 2012 and Worilds now. Lewis went on to have a good enough season at left cornerback to command a five-year, $26.3 million contract from the New Orleans Saints as a free agent.

A signable younger player might be Hood. He started the past two seasons at left defensive end and nine games for the injured Aaron Smith in 2010. This will be the fifth and final year of the contract he signed when the Steelers drafted him in the first round in 2009.

Another possible target to sign to an extension would be Redman. The Steelers drafted Le'Veon Bell in the second round in April and he should become their starting halfback. But Redman could be a solid No. 2.

"I wouldn't be surprised if that doesn't occur," Redman's agent, Sean Stellato, said of a contract extension. "He's happy to be there and he's looking forward to the season."

Adams, Miller on the mend

Mike Adams continues to recover quickly from the injury to his abdomen when he was stabbed June 1 during a botched attempt to rob him on Carson Street in the South Side.

But Adams still needs time to heal and regain his core strength before he returns to practice, so he won't join his teammates Saturday when they hit the practice field.

But there is reason to believe he will be ready to start the season. He is projected as the starting right tackle.

Heath Miller, still recovering from triple ligament tears and surgery in January, likely will open training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

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For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published July 26, 2013 4:00 AM


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