I briefly noted the Steelers decision to release veteran LB and ST player Clint Kriewaldt, 3rd-string TE Jerame Tuman, and return man Allen Rossum earlier, but I wanted to quickly throw out a few thoughts about their salary figures, what voids their departures create, as well as how these voids might be addressed in free agency and the upcoming draft.
No disrespect to the three former Steelers, especially Tuman and Kriewaldt, who put in commendable service to the organization for a number of years, but let's be real, none of the above was truly a difference maker whatsoever either due to their place on the depth chart, their age, or their ability. However, that doesn't mean there are zero implications to them no longer being on the 53-man roster.
A few random thoughts that you guys perhaps might have an opinion on:
1) Tuman is of course expendable, but let me remind you that rookie TE Matt Spaeth struggled staying healthy last year. I forget the exact context, but I remember Tomlin basically saying that 'Spaeth is going to have to get tougher. Injuries are something you learn to deal with in the NFL.' Tuman's services weren't dirt cheap, but they weren't exactly exorbitant either. He may be a step slower than he was 3-5 years ago, but this is still a guy that played a big role in us having one of the more successful running attacks this past deacde. Tuman was slated to earn $1.45 million in '08, plus a prorated signing bonus sum of $300,000. The Steelers will eat that dead space, but what will they do with that roster spot? Surely they won't waste a draft pick on a TE, will they? If not, do you bring in an undrafted FA rookie and let him sit on the practice squad in case of an emergency? Do you select that player with an eye on his ability to contribute on special teams and only use him in the event of an injury to Spaeth or Miller? It'd be quite the (dumb) gamble to only carry two TEs on our squad and practice squad this year, so unless we're looking for a bargain basement that we plan on not using this year, I don't necessarily see this move as one that definitely frees up a bunch of money. What do you guys think we'll do with the #3 TE situation?
* What to make of releasing Rossum? Does the move mean we intend to look for help in the draft? You guys have been touting the ability of several return guys that might be worth a look in rounds 3-6. Do we hand over the duties to Willie Reid and/or Cedrick Wilson? Speaking of Wilson..is his future in Pittsburgh secure for '08 given that he wasn't included in this initial series of cuts? Perhaps too early to make such a definitive proclamation, as there are still potential free agents to be had, as well as diamond in the rough WRs in the later rounds of the draft. We'll see. Anyway, it seems clear that the coaching staff doesn't want to expose Santonio Holmes to the injury risk that comes with return duties, so who's next in line? God help us if it's Najeh Davenport again. I'm sorry, Davenport contributed lots last year, but great teams simply don't concede mediocre-to-barely above average field position in the return game with guys like Najeh. Can someone please explain to me how our change-of-gear power-back is also supposed to be our explosive kick returner? Seems like beyond twisted logic to me. You don't have to have a dynamite return game to be competitive in this league, but when you have an offensive line that surrenders lots of sacks, it sure wouldn't hurt to upgrade in this department. Color me curious to see the final outcome to this question mark.
* Finally, Mr. Kriewaldt. A two-time special teams captain and a reliable back-up and locker-room guy. Hard to kick good guys to the curb, but that's the nature of the business. Kriewaldt is no spring chicken and frankly, his value as a special-teams head-hunter has diminished in recent years. Paging Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley. We officially have our future invested in you producing, not only on defense, but on special teams as well, at least in the case of Timmons. We'll eat a hair over $250,000 grand by cutting Kriewaldt, but that's no big shakes. Hell, we're still on the hook for $212,000 to Chris Gardocki in 2008. That's depressing, I know. Anyway, we may see the Steelers draft a LB in the middle rounds this year, have him get stronger and learn the ropes for a year or two behind Harrison, Woodley, Timmons, Farrior and Foote, then have him be ready to fill in for the aging Farrior in '10. Then again, we may just hitch our wagon to those four, hope John Trucks is ready in case of an emergency, and find a cheap reserve that's a touch more athletic and nasty for special teams purposes. We shall see.
Steelers fans, respond to my uncohesive and probably erroneous evaluation of this recent series of releases. Again, not the most important components of our squad, but they still constitute nearly 6% of our active 53-man roster. Those holes, however, small, still represent an opportunity for us to improve. What should be done?