Steelers on top of salary cap after LeGarrette Blount signing

Jared Wickerham

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert dropped the mic and strutted off stage, ready to move full-time into the draft and worry about free agency after June 1 as the Steelers sit almost directly on the salary cap until that time.

Kevin Colbert has turned into Jackson Heights' own...Mr. Randy Watson.

To muted applause, Colbert announced the signing of LeGarrette Blount, becoming one of the few teams in NFL history to sit almost directly on the salary cap, drop the microphone and walk off stage.

There's no prize for the team that comes into a season with the least amount of salary. Carryover from the previous year's salary cap doesn't occur until after the season. Colbert navigated the Steelers through this free agency period masterfully, adding starting caliber players and back-ups at shallow positions for low dollar amounts.

He's done his part in terms of evaluating and signing players, now it's on the coaching staff, particularly Mike Tomlin, and the players themselves to get out of the 8-8 funk under which the team has rotted the last two seasons.

It's likely the Steelers will stop pursuit of any other free agent (although you never know when the right player may come available) at least until after June 1, when LaMarr Woodley's contract comes off the books, netting the Steelers an additional $8 million of cap space. Even that is likely to be used for the Steelers' nine draft picks (assuming they use all nine of their draft picks in May), with perhaps an extension given somewhere.

All of this was done this year with one restructured contract - that of Antonio Brown's, which added on $1.9 million to the next three years. Brown just broke the team's single season receiving record, and came a few catches from its single season receptions record. at 27 years of age, and a very team-friendly deal, considering his production, giving him a bonus, so to speak, in the form of cash up front isn't the worst thing they could have done.

For a team that restructured as many as five players just three years ago, it showed Colbert took the larger salary cap, negotiated it in conjunction with the team's needs and created a product stronger, if not slightly more expensive, than it was previously.

The NFL produced much shorter contracts this free agency period than it has in the past, the expected increase of salary cap space over the next two seasons being the likely culprit of that. In it, the Steelers got a long-term deal with free safety Mike Mitchell, a young-and-coming player at a critical position of need in this defense. They replaced a slot receiver, Jerricho Cotchery, for a slightly younger slot receiver, Lance Moore, for less money. They brought in Arthur Moats at veteran minimum to help re-establish depleted depth at both inside and outside linebacker (as well as special teams) and they signed a possible starter, Cam Thomas, on what's basically a two-year deal that provides a large amount of incentive for him to produce or not see that second year (with little cap penalty in doing so).

These are not the kinds of moves synonymous with every single Super Bowl champion, but without cultivating the soil, nothing can grow. These players bring an injection of youth, athleticism and strength to a team that has lost those resources through bad drafts, extensions, restructures and simple lack of development over the last few seasons.

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