On the Steelers: A look around the negotiating table at who is being served and who isn't
All seems quiet on the contract front with the Steelers, except with kicker Jeff Reed. There is nothing doing with other players such as LaMarr Woodley, Ike Taylor and Willie Colon.
Those three could become unrestricted free agents in March. Taylor will, unless he signs a new contract. Woodley and Colon might, depending on whether there is a new collective bargaining agreement.
Reed's agent met with Steelers executives Kevin Colbert and Omar Khan in Pittsburgh Tuesday and believes the team wants to negotiate a multiyear contract before July 15. As the franchise player, Reed must sign a new deal by July 15 or his one-year tender of $2.814 million will take effect.
"We had a good conversation," agent Don Henderson said. "We're working on it."
Henderson said both sides want to get a longer deal done and thinks it will happen.
There is nothing, CBA or otherwise, stopping the Steelers from negotiating a contract extension with their coach, it just does not seem to be occurring. The Steelers always extended Bill Cowher's contract when he had two years left on it except in 2006, and the coach resigned after that season.
Mike Tomlin has said he will not talk about his contract and his agent has not responded to messages or emails on the matter. The Steelers employ the same policy with their coach as with their players -- they will negotiate up to the start of the season but not after that.
For all the problems the Steelers had last season when they collapsed to go 9-7, there will be little competition for starting jobs in training camp: Left cornerback, right guard and maybe inside linebacker. And quarterback, of course, for the first four games.
Injuries could change that, and there will be many more battles going on behind the starters. At left cornerback, it appears it will come down to Bryant McFadden or Keenan Lewis. At right guard, Maurkice Pouncey, Trai Essex and Ramon Foster. At inside linebacker, two seats for James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote.
Foote always seemed to be the ideal mack linebacker who stays closer to the line of scrimmage than the buck that is James Farrior. Timmons is the one who seems more suited to back up Farrior. But that is not the case, apparently. If Farrior is replaced, it would be with Foote.
Limas Sweed's Achilles injury that likely will cost him the 2010 season is the latest jinx to befall those Steelers who wore the No. 80. As part of his fresh start following two difficult seasons after the Steelers drafted him in the second round, Sweed turned in his old No. 14 for No. 80 this spring.
Perhaps, it was not such a good idea. The previous two No. 80s became infamous. The Steelers released Cedric Wilson after he was accused of hitting his girlfriend. Plaxico Burress is in jail after shooting himself in the leg.
Another who wore No. 80 was known for the same thing that dogged Sweed, dropped passes. Jahine Arnold was a fourth-round draft pick from Fresno State in 1996, dubbed "JaClang" for the sound footballs made bouncing off his hands.
Then there was Mark Stock, who wore No. 80 in 1989. He dropped a pass in a playoff game from Bubby Brister near midfield as the Steelers were mounting a last-minute drive against Denver, down by one. Had he caught that pass, they might have pulled it off because they had sure-footed Gary Anderson ready to kick. He kicked a 50- yard field goal in overtime to beat Houston in their first playoff game that season, and his range was longer in the thin Denver air. Had Stock caught that pass, the Steelers might have beaten John Elway to go on to the AFC championship game in Cleveland.
Sweed should have done more research before switching to it. Jack Butler, however, wore that number proudly with the Steelers from 1951-59 and should be in the Hall of Fame. But Butler's career ended with a terrible leg injury on the field that nearly cost him his life.
If Sweed overcomes this latest setback, he should look into switching jersey numbers again.
Something good will come out of Ben Roethlisberger's suspension. He will help retired football players, kids, education and medical research with what could be more than $3 million in fines (lost salary) if he misses six games (seven weeks) because of commissioner Roger Goodell's suspension.
According to the NFL, player fines collected by the league have been used to support retired player programs, including the NFL Player Care Foundation and NFLPA Players Assistance Trust; disaster relief initiatives; and other charities supporting youth, education and sports-related medical research.
Roethlisberger was not the only one fined for his misdeeds. The NFL also fined the Steelers $200,000 because their quarterback misbehaved. And that money will go to good use as well. The money lost when clubs are fined because one of their players was suspended helps fund programs dealing with the league's drug policy, steroids, and NFL player-development programs.
First Published May 9, 2010 12:00 am