Steelers extend jobs, eliminate some others in money-saving moves

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The Steelers saved some jobs, nearly came into salary-cap compliance and bade goodbye to another of their three-time Super Bowl veterans Wednesday with a squall of moves.

After extending the contracts of tight end Heath Miller and safety Troy Polamalu, they released linebacker Larry Foote, a 12-year veteran with two Super Bowl rings and their starting linebacker until he was injured in the opener in 2013.

They also released cornerback Curtis Brown, a third-round draft bust from 2011, and veteran offensive tackle Levi Brown, whom they acquired in a trade with Arizona in October in an emergency move. He quickly went down with a torn triceps in pregame warm-ups and never played for them.

In addition, they came to terms with safety Will Allen on a one-year minimum contract before he could become a free agent. Allen, though, has not yet signed his deal.

Those moves created somewhere around $15 million in salary-cap space, which puts the Steelers within breathing room of compliance with the cap number required by 4 p.m. Tuesday.

They created nearly $8 million in salary-cap space when they extended two of their iconic players, Polamalu and Miller, through the 2016 season at little cost to them.

They saved $6.25 million by releasing Levi Brown, $1.3 million by releasing Foote and maybe a couple hundred-thousand by releasing Curtis Brown, who was to earn a $645,000 salary (but will be replaced on their top 51 salaries by someone earning $420,000).

Miller and Polamalu took one for the team when they agreed to their new contracts. Neither received any additional compensation to do so, which is rare, especially for two players who have been perhaps the best at their positions in the club’s history.

The two deals, however, virtually assured that both will end their playing days in a Steelers uniform.

“I am thankful and blessed to be in a position to play my entire career in Pittsburgh,” Polamalu wrote on Twitter Wednesday night.

Miller’s new deal whittles his salary cap by $3.3 million. All the Steelers did was convert $5 million of his $6 million 2014 salary to a signing bonus and extend his contract by two years with no new money added other than non-guaranteed salaries of $4 million per year.

Polamalu’s move will create $4.5 million in salary-cap space this year. They converted $6.75 million of his $8.25 million salary for 2014 into a bonus, and he will receive the remaining $1.5 million in a salary in 2014. He also has non-guaranteed salaries of $6 million in 2015 and $5.75 million in 2016.

Foote was scheduled to earn a $1.5 million salary in 2014 and, while the Steelers save that, they also must account for the $333,000 of his signing bonus that was pro-rated for 2015. It now counts this year.

While Foote’s release saved them little under the cap, his coaches believe he is finished as a player. Rookie Vince Williams replaced him in the starting lineup, and the Steelers still have hopes that Sean Spence can come back from a devastating preseason knee injury in 2012, his rookie year.

Levi Brown was never in their plans for 2014. Curtis Brown was deeply disappointing to them as a player, a third-round draft pick from Texas who never cut it even as a good special-teams player. Cortez Allen, drafted in the fourth round that same year, quickly bypassed Brown on the depth chart and, eventually, became a starting cornerback. Brown played in seven games in 2013 and finished on injured reserve.

All players released are replaced by a minimum-salary player ($420,000) on their top 51 salary list. So Foote’s savings are really closer to $800,000 and Levi Brown’s $5.8 million.

Despite clearing so much space Wednesday, the Steelers still have work to do to create more room in order to sign perhaps wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, a few others of their impending free agents and maybe make a stab at other teams’ free agents come Tuesday.

After the smoke cleared on their busiest day of 2014, still standing on the roster were veteran cornerback Ike Taylor and his $7 million salary and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley and his $8 million salary.

They have not asked Taylor to take a pay cut but are expected to do so. They also might ask Woodley to take one. One or both also are subject to being released.

Ed Bouchette: and Twitter @EdBouchette.

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