As you have surely already been made aware by now, we have gotten our first opportunity in a while to hear directly from members of the Pittsburgh Steelers front office yesterday thanks to the Annual League Meeting getting underway yesterday. That included a sit-down interview with General Manager Kevin Colbert, who spoke on a number of issues with Missi Matthews for the team’s website.
Perhaps the two biggest topics that he discussed were the decision pending over whether or not to pick up Bud Dupree’s fifth-year option and, well, the biggest question looming over the offseason, regarding whether or not the team will be able to reach a long-term deal with running back Le’Veon Bell.
Colbert said that he remains optimistic about a deal done, but also noted that contract talks are essentially on hold for now while other business gets taken care of. Asked when he would expect talks to resume, he said, “I think after free agency ends. You may even go through the draft and just see where your team stands”.
While that might sound a bit menacing, perhaps even creating the ability to infer that the Steelers could target a running back that will eventually replace Bell, that doesn’t appear to be what Colbert was getting at.
“The draft can change your own cap situation as well. We may get a player that we didn’t think we were going to get”, Colbert said. “Maybe that creates an opportunity to terminate somebody else so as to be able to accommodate different cap specifications that may occur. This thing changes daily, and we just try to monitor and keep up as soon as possible, and deal with things in an appropriate manner”.
While the observation is a fairly obvious one, I think it’s notable for this offseason. I refer specifically to the idea of terminating players based on what they do in the draft, potentially for cap purposes, which is not normally how the team operates.
And there would seem to be at least one obvious name to place in this discussion, that being safety J.J. Wilcox, who has to the best of our knowledge not taken a pay cut from his expected base salary north of $3 million this season despite being a backup.
Following the selection of quarterback Joshua Dobbs in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Steelers did release Zach Mettenberger, whom they claimed off waivers in August of 2016 after a need arose at the position.
I looked back upon the past several years of transactions for the team and that is by far the most significant post-draft release that I can come up with, so perhaps Colbert’s mentioning that fact in the manner that he did does mean a bit more than it might normally.
Of course it should not exactly be a shock that a player not expected to start who is making over $3 million at a non-premium position might be at risk of release depending on what happens in the draft, either.