The Pittsburgh Steelers are in contract talks with just a single player, and it's not Antonio Brown or Lawrence Timmons.
The Steelers and representatives for G David DeCastro are reportedly negotiating a contract extension for the former first-round pick. This deal, when completed, will likely make DeCastro one of the highest-paid guards in the NFL history; however, the two sides are not close to coming to terms on an agreement, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
DeCastro, who is scheduled to make $8 million this season after the Steelers picked up his fifth-year option, was a first-team All-Pro selection and Pro Bowler in 2015 after anchoring one of the NFL's best offensive lines. Signing DeCastro to a long-term extension was a major priority for the Steelers heading into the offseason, but for now, it appears as if both sides have some major obstacles to surmount in order to ensure that DeCastro stays in Pittsburgh for the long term.
Of course, these talks are expected to heat up in the weeks ahead, especially since DeCastro is the only player with whom the Steelers are negotiating, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
However, ESPN is reporting that Brown's agent Drew Rosenhaus and Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert have "been in communication" regarding the All-Pro receiver's contract. Brown, who leads all receivers with 265 catches for 3,532 yards over the past two seasons, is scheduled to make just over $6 million in base salary in 2016.
Bouchette and the Post-Gazette, on the other hand, have Colbert on record as stating that he and the Steelers are unwilling to break their longstanding rule of refusing to negotiate with non-quarterbacks who have more than one year remaining on their current deals.
". . .we believe in our philosophy and I don't see that changing," Colbert told local media. "I've never addressed any player individually."
In other words, tough luck on getting that extension.
The Steelers could, however, replicate a move that they made last season by prorating some of Brown's future salary into a signing bonus that could, theoretically, push the star receiver's 2016 salary into eight figures.
Also absent from Pittsburgh's negotiating table are Markus Wheaton and Le'Veon Bell, who will both, barring last-minute extensions or the franchise tag, become unrestricted free agents in March. Bell is currently appealing a four-game suspension that he received for allegedly missing several drug tests, while Wheaton, a third-round pick in 2013, is battling for the team's starting receiver spot opposite of Brown. The Steelers were not expected to negotiate with Bell this offseason, particularly given his "off-field issues" and injury history. Wheaton, on the other hand, could easily play himself out of Pittsburgh's price range by having a better-than-decent season in 2016, so the team is certainly taking a calculated risk by giving him the opportunity to bet on himself.
Unlike Bell and Wheaton, the Steelers had been expected to restructure Timmons' contract, as the 2014 Pro Bowler will carry a $15.1 million cap hit with him into the 2016 season. Considering that the Steelers are not negotiating with any players other than DeCastro, Timmons' cap number is irrelevant since he will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2016 season.
Overall, what was expected to be a busy time for the Steelers' front office and players' agents is unnervingly quiet. Don't look for much to happen with Bell, Timmons and Wheaton, but I do expect the Steelers to address Brown's contract. DeCastro, at this point, appears to be a wildcard.