'Deepest Crop' Awaits Steelers

Sean Spence (Bridge/USA TODAY Sports)

GM Kevin Colbert discussed what lies ahead in the next couple of weeks as the Steelers prepare for the combine and the start of the new fiscal year.

Ben Roethlisberger will turn 32 on March 2, so the Steelers' window of Super Bowl opportunity can't remain open too much longer.

But that doesn't mean the team's general manager, Kevin Colbert, will be drafting for immediate need this spring instead of best available athlete.

"No. We can't. You just can't do it," Colbert said at a meeting with combine-bound reporters on Wednesday. "If we bypass a great player to fill a spot, we're going to disrupt the natural evolution of the roster and we can't do that. You can't. As tempting as it may be, you have to avoid that."

Colbert and his staff will report to the Indianapolis combine next Tuesday to begin testing, timing and interviewing what Colbert calls "the deepest (draft) class I've seen in 30 years."

The Steelers will certainly need that kind of close since they're unlikely to patch their holes free agency, which begins March 11.

On that day, the Steelers must be in compliance with the salary cap limit, which they presently exceed by approximately $13 million.

To erase that number, Colbert said the Steelers "have to discuss terminations, restructurings and extensions." Some of that will be accomplished within the next week and throughout the combine.

Some examples of "terminations, restructurings and extensions": Cutting Levi Brown would save $6.25 million; restructuring Antonio Brown and Lawrence Timmons could save close to $8 million; and extending Roethlisberger, fairly, could save another $4 million.

Of course, Colbert wouldn't discuss individual contracts. And when asked who among his 21 unrestricted free agents he would like to re-sign, Colbert said "who knows."

But the Steelers have admitted in the past they'll try to re-sign outside linebacker Jason Worilds before the market opens on March 11.

Would the re-signing of Worilds force the team to cut LaMarr Woodley on June 1 in order to save $8 million? Could the Steelers keep both outside linebackers along with last year's first-round pick, Jarvis Jones?

"Yeah, we could," Colbert said. "There are an infinite number of possibilities. We won't exclude anything."

Woodley has missed 14 games in the last three seasons with hamstring and calf injuries. To that end, Colbert will meet with the training and conditioning staff today to review his players' medical conditions.

"We had similar type meetings last year and I think Troy (Polamalu) is the perfect example of someone who changed their regimen with positive results," Colbert said. "The frustrating part is we don't have them for the amount of time we'd like to have them. Per the CBA, we can't be with them. We can monitor from afar what they're doing but we can't be with them as much as we'd like."

In other noteworthy topics, Colbert said:

* It's "doubtful" the team would use the franchise tag to keep any of the free agents, of which Worilds, Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel and Emmanuel Sanders are the only starters.

* Sean Spence "had one great day of practice last fall and that was very exciting for us and exciting for him. Unfortunately he broke his hand that same day. Maybe it was a blessing. Maybe that small sampling he gave us was enough to show that he can be fully recovered from this injury."

* New linebackers coaching assistant Joey Porter "is more excited about coaching for the Steelers than just coaching in the NFL. I think he was quoted as saying he wanted to work at Colorado State and here. I think that's a big reason why Coach (Mike) Tomlin was interested, because Joey can bring a certain element of pass-rush expertise. The exciting thing is he and Jarvis are very similar stature, so I think there are some things he'll be able to share with Jarvis that will help Jarvis be a better player."

* Nose tackle Steve McLendon, in his first year as a starter, "was OK. He fought through some injuries and gave us some good work. But, again, to say that anybody was good enough, including myself, when you're 8-8, I think that's a disservice to the organization."

For the complete transcript of Kevin Colbert's press conference, click here.

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