What a difference a couple of decades makes.
After the dawn of the salary cap influenced free agent era in 1993, the Steelers watched many talented players leave town for greener pastures. Today, with a few decades of practice and experience, Pittsburgh's brass seems to be making the right moves during the off-season and doing their part to ensure the team's success come training camp and beyond. The Steelers players, many of them Super Bowl veterans, are doing their part to add to the team's already crowded trophy case.
In business as in life, the right decisions can sometimes be the toughest. The Steelers retained the right to linebacker Jason Worilds, signing him to a transitional tag last week. Thus leading to the team releasing former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion LaMarr Woodley. Fellow outside linebacker and Super Bowl XL and XLIII champion Larry Foote was also released.
Pittsburgh did retain two multiple Super Bowl winners, extending the contracts of Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller while saving money in the process. Just days after receiver Antonio Brown agreed to have his contract adjusted, 10-year veteran and two-time Super Bowl champion corner back Ike Taylor agreed to have his contract modified to help put the team $8 million under the salary cap. The team was $5.5 million over the cap just five days ago. While it's not a large sum of dough, the Steelers will have some spending money today when the free agency season begins.Four of the top five free agent corner backs made $5 million or less last season, so the Steelers technically could sign one of them if desired.
Regardless of who they sign, the Steelers and general manager Kevin Colbert have already shown eagerness this off season to right the ship after consecutive 8-8 seasons. They had to say goodbye to a few former Super Bowl champions while asking others to adjust their contracts.
The players have also done their part. Polamalu, Miller, Brown and Taylor didn't have to restructure their contracts or could have demanded more money. After all, Brown did just set a Steelers record for receiving yards in a season. But that's what separates the Steelers from many other NFL franchises. The veterans on this team understand the rich history of the organization, and the ones that don't learn quickly that winning Super Bowls is the expectation.
If you ask the Steelers veterans to a man, they'd probably tell you that it hurt them to watch the organization slip below their usual place among the league's upper echelon.When players share that expectation, the result for this franchise has resulted in either Super Bowl championships or teams that came pretty darn close. In an era of me-first athletes, the Steelers players are keeping it old-school, putting the organization first and accepting pay cuts in hopes of another Super Bowl run. It's a throwback to a different time, a better time, in sports.
It's important for guys like Polamalu, Taylor, and Miller to retire as Steelers and do what it takes for the team to continue to thrive. It's important for Brown to win a Super Bowl ring after coming close his rookie season. Colbert understands these things and worked with his veterans that he thought still added value to the team. While this doesn't guarantee another Super Bowl, the Steelers-from the front office to the players- are going to do "whatever it takes" to get there.