First the Steelers created $4.05 million in cap space by restructuring the contract of LaMarr Woodley. Then they signed Foote to a three-year contract and breathed a sigh of relief because the Steelers went into the day with only one inside linebacker – Lawrence Timmons – with game experience in their defense.
The Steelers had a smaller but equally troublesome hole at wide receiver until Burress agreed to sign a one-year veteran’s minimum-wage contract that will pay him $940,000 but count only $555,000 against the cap.
The Steelers now have Burress, Jerricho Cotchery, Antonio Brown and David Gilreath as experienced receivers under contract, with restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders expected back when that signing period ends the week of the draft.
Currently backing up Foote and Timmons at inside linebacker are street free agents Brian Rolle and Kion Wilson, and practice squad player Marshall McFadden. Last year’s third-round pick, Sean Spence, isn’t expected to fully recover from a severe knee injury suffered last preseason.
Rolle, the former Ohio State captain, started 13 games as a rookie for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. Wilson, from South Florida, played in 8 games for San Diego and Carolina in 2010 and 2011. McFadden led the Steelers last preseason in unassisted tackles.
It was also reported Tuesday that the Steelers plan to designated guard Willie Colon for a June 1 release, which would allow the team to shave $5.5 million off of their salary cap at that date to help pay for its draft class, practice squad and provide for an in-season injury replacement fund.
The Steelers said goodbye to free agent Mike Wallace, who signed Tuesday night with the Miami Dolphins, and expect to soon be without Rashard Mendenhall, Keenan Lewis and Casey Hampton, among others.
In the meantime they’ll sift through the free-agent bargain bin for more linebackers and receivers, and probably a running back and safety.
The Steelers have only two running backs – Baron Batch and fullback Will Johnson – on their roster, and are awaiting the end of the RFA season to officially count Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman.
Dwyer signed his RFA tender Tuesday, which ensures his $1.323 million tender can’t be withdrawn by the team if it does run out of cap space.
Behind Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu at safety are the inexperienced Damon Cromartie-Smith and Robert Golden, and street free agent Ross Ventrone. Will Allen and Ryan Mundy are unrestricted free agents.
To complete the day, the Steelers signed tight end David Johnson to a one-year contract.