Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert today promised changes to their roster after an 8-8 season, changes that could include saying goodbye to some veterans and even their high-profile free agents.
"When you're 12-4 and a playoff team, sometimes you get mesmerized by your success and you get a little reluctant to change," Colbert said, referring to the Steelers' record in both 2010 and 2011.
"If we don't change a roster that produced 8-8, we'd be silly to expect a better result."
Colbert said the Steelers are still evaluating players and planning how to get into salary cap compliance by the March 12 deadline. The cap is expected to be similar to last year, around $121 million per team. The Steelers are projected to be at least $10 million over that right now.
They will get under it, Colbert said, through contract terminations, extensions and reconstructions.
He sounded as if none of their impending free agents will get contract offers before they can hit the open market March 12.
"We won't know what an individual player will cost until he gets out there," Colbert said. "Going into this thing, we're not married to anybody."
The Steelers have a gaggle of starters who will become unrestricted free agents including Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Max Starks, Rashard Mendenhall, Casey Hampton, Larry Foote and Ramon Foster.
As for using the franchise tag to prevent any of them from signing elsewhere, Colbert called it "very doubtful."
"I don't think we have too many franchise players," he added.
Colbert met with a handful of writers who regularly cover the Steelers today. Among some of his other points:
• On the running game, which produced its fewest yards in nine seasons: "Where we were in the running game last year was indicative of the talent at the position ... That group of players didn't produce the way we anticipated they would."
• The decision to cut Chris Rainey will not be reversed, no matter what the legal outcome of his battery arrest in Florida: "The decision has been made."
• On Steelers executive Omar Khan being a finalist to become the New York Jets general manager: "He's earned it. We think he's ready."
• Colbert noted that the Steelers, according to one study, had fewer injuries that some playoff teams had. "We were not the only team that had injuries. Teams that had more had better results." He said the amount of injuries "really wasn't unique to us."
• In other news, the Steelers did sign one of their own free agents. Cornerback Justin King of Monroeville, Gateway High School and Penn State, signed a contract for his veteran minimum.