September 16, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor (24) talks with head linesman Bill Etzler (29) after Taylor was called for pass interference against the New York Jets during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jamison Hensley recently made the Steelers the focus of one of his “Camp Confidential” articles on his AFC North blog on ESPN.com. While most of the article was just a standard “2013 regular season preview,” I was nevertheless surprised when I read what Ike Taylor said after he was asked what would happen if Pittsburgh finished with an 8-8 record this fall:
"“It’ll be a clearance sale…Everyone must go.”"
While the idea of a “clearance sale” might be a bit hard for some of us fans to swallow, a more intense rebuilding effort could be on the horizon for the Steelers if improvements are not seen during the coming months. Moreover, I am sure that many of Pittsburgh’s pending free agents, particularly their veteran ones like Taylor, are aware that more big changes could happen if the team finishes with a sub-.500 record this fall.
Veterans with expiring contracts next spring such as Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, and Jason Worilds could all be in danger of not being extended if they under-perform. I should also add that Emmanuel Sanders will also be a UFA next March, and the pass-catcher should command a price tag way out of Pittsburgh’s budget if he can produce well during his first season as a starter.
In addition to those five players, veterans with large base salaries who might be deemed too expensive could be in danger of being released or forced to restructure as well. Thus, more starters like Troy Polamalu (2014: $8.25 million base salary) and even Taylor (2014: $7 million base salary) could be released if their health or play are not up to par in 2013.
Like Polamalu and Taylor, William Gay (2014 & 2015: $1.5 million base salary) and Larry Foote (2014 & 2015: $1.5 million base salary) could be in danger of being released to boot if some of the youngsters on the roster prove that they are primed to take their jobs as early as this fall. While these veterans still have years left on their current deals, economics and how pressed the Steelers are for salary cap space could force Kevin Colbert & Co. to make some tough “restructuring” or “releasing” decisions.
How extensive a “clearance sale” will be if Pittsburgh’s front office decide to have one after a sub-.500 season will only be determined if and when it actually will occur. I for one hope that the rebuilding process is nearing its end in Pittsburgh, but the front office will nevertheless have some extremely difficult decisions to make regarding some of their most important veteran players over the next 20 months.
My hope is that a sense of urgency has permeated around St. Vincent’s this summer. The window could be closing for many of Pittsburgh’s veterans, and it definitely looks like Taylor appears motivated to turn things around this fall. Otherwise, an “everything must go” sale could be what all of us fans witness during March and April of 2014.
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