Training camp report: Steelers begin anew today



Steelers players no longer lug fans, televisions or refrigerators into their dorms at Saint Vincent College, where they report today to start training camp. Those annual photo-ops disappeared long ago. For years, a rental company has supplied most of the creature comforts for their three-week home away from home, save a favorite pillow or Xbox.

Also not yet appearing this summer -- besides even more venerable veterans who have disappeared from Saint Vincent -- are the usual contract extension negotiations that often mark the beginning of camp.

The Steelers have made plenty of noise through the years, signing some of their most important players to contract extensions during camp, often within the first week.

Right now, there is none, and there might be no more in 2014.

The Steelers long ago offered linebacker Jason Worilds a multiyear contract that was declined. They say that was their last best offer, and the lines have been pretty much dead between the two parties since. He will play this year under the one-year transition contract of $9,754,000, then be eligible for free agency again next year. Worilds could be a Band-Aid on the left outside linebacker position until they find someone else for 2015.

Traditionally, the Steelers would have extended the contract of Ben Roethlisberger by now or been close to a new deal. Like many other things this year, the tradition of signing their starting quarterback to an extension two years before his contract expires has been cast aside. It appears any extension to Roethlisberger's contract, which has two years to run, will not happen until 2015 at the earliest.

Others entering the final seasons of their contracts include cornerback Ike Taylor, kicker Shaun Suisham, cornerback Cortez Allen, tackle Marcus Gilbert, tight end Matt Spaeth, linebacker Chris Carter and a host of others. Long-snapper Greg Warren, one of only five players left on the roster with two Steelers Super Bowl rings, signed a one-year deal this year to return for his 10th season in Pittsburgh.

Contracts can get done quickly if the Steelers decide to move on them. That still could occur this summer before their self-imposed deadline to stop negotiations once the regular season begins. At the moment, all is quiet, as it has been since the end of minicamp in June.

The Steelers signed Maurkice Pouncey to a new six-year, $48 million contract June 12, and nothing has occurred since. Things could remain muted right through training camp and into the season.

There also have been no talks to bring back defensive end Brett Keisel, who remains an unrestricted free agent after his contract expired in March. The Steelers privately indicated they might be interested in signing him to a one-year veteran minimum, which would pay him slightly more than $1 million for 2014. However, they backed away when Keisel let it be known he did not want to play for the minimum.

His return still could happen, especially if injuries occur at the position or if players the Steelers think might handle the job cannot as they go deeper into the preseason. They had little interest in bringing back Max Starks in 2011 until their left-tackle situation deteriorated through the first four games. They signed Starks before the fifth game and he not only started the remaining 12 at left tackle, but also all 16 games in 2012.

Injures are something else that virtually have disappeared. No starters are expected to open on the physically unable to perform list, although a younger player or two might. Injuries have been as much a part of the storyline for the Steelers the past several seasons as have their departing veterans.

The weeding out of Super Bowl veterans is near an end, and the Steelers can only hope losing key players to injuries slows, too.

• • •

NOTE -- The Steelers released linebacker Kion Wilson, who started two games at inside linebacker last season after an injury to Larry Foote. They signed rookie cornerback Lew Toler of Rutgers.

Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.


First Published July 24, 2014 8:00 PM

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