Steelers free agency 2014: Whether team looks to rebuild before the draft depends on the next few days

Jared Wickerham

If Steelers GM Kevin Colbert wishes to make moves to break free of the funk of mediocrity in which the Steelers currently reside, he'll have to make a few moves over the next few days.

It's perhaps too dramatic to pull a Bud Kilmer and say something like "the next four days for the next four years" of the Steelers' franchise. At the same time, it's not too far off-base.

Steelers general manager has said twice in the past two years the players with expiring contracts are players on an 8-8 team. He backed the spirit of that message up by letting a few of them walk, cutting a few others and bringing in some new blood - not to mention playing rookies an atypical amount in the 2013 season.

How much will Colbert want to continue the retooling of his roster in an effort to get the team out of its current funk of mediocrity?

We'll find out between Friday and Monday, the last few days the Steelers have to get within compliance of the $133 million salary cap, and prepare any space needed to retain their own pending free agents and to discuss contracts with free agents around the league.

While big moves have already been made, there are still a few out there likely to be made between now and Tuesday.

A decision will be made on cornerback Ike Taylor - they aren't starting the league year with Taylor having an $11.9 million cap hit.

That may coincide with the likely extension given to outside linebacker Jason Worilds. Equally, he isn't likely to start the year with a $9.75 million cap number.

Those two moves may play a part in the decision to keep or cut OLB LaMarr Woodley, and negotiations with him may already be underway. Woodley certainly doesn't have a specific reason to want to play for less money in 2014 than he's currently scheduled to make, he also may see the writing on the wall - long-term deal coming for Worilds, Jarvis Jones developing behind him - and request the team cut him in advance of the start of free agency.

Designating him as a June 1 cut now saves the Steelers a good chunk on their current 2014 salary cap, but leaves them down an outside linebacker.

And there's the omnipresent conversation of an extension for Ben Roethlisberger, who's $18 million-plus cap number hangs on the team like a dense fog.

There will likely be decisions made on all of these situations, save Roethlisberger's, which may end up coming later in 2014. If the Steelers wish to be players in free agency, we can expect these moves to be made in relatively short order. It's been standard operating procedure for the Steelers to avoid the big ticket free agents, instead choosing to sign low-price fill-in guys for the sake of depth. That isn't a bad route to take this season, either.

They will still need the money to be able to do that, though. How much they're willing to open that up, and with that, show their intentions for free agency at the start of the year, can be summarized by which of these moves they make over the next few days.

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