â†µThe team's GM/director of football operation/other jargony NFL title for team executive Kevin Colbert said the move is a preventative measure, one to keep the team from hurting itself by overspending on players only to find itself undoing that spending if a deal is made on the labor situation and a salary cap is reinstituted (even if that is unlikely to happen before next season starts). â†µâ†µ
â†µOthers have mused that perhaps this puts Pittsburgh at a competitive disadvantage for the next season. Perhaps if a league-wide salary cap still doesn't exist five years down the road, the team's cap does. But thinking it hurts the Steelers in 2010 ignores the fact that Pittsburgh seldom ever makes a splash in the free agent market. Throughout the free agency era, the team has made its bones through the draft. What was the biggest free agent signing the Steelers have made the last decade? An oft-injured Duce Staley at a relatively cheap price in 2004. The 2002 signing of James Farrior has been the exception, not the rule. Of their starting lineup last season, safety Ryan Clark and center Justin Hartwig were the most prominent players acquired through free agency. Solid contributors, but hardly anchors of the team. â†µâ†µ
â†µAs many teams did, the Steelers prepared for an uncapped season by locking up key players to long-term deals last year. That leaves the team with a meager 2010 free agent class that is highlighted by Clark, kicker Jeff Reed and nose tackle Casey Hampton. Hampton may command a hefty contract, but the guy is 33 years old and, despite being named to his fifth Pro Bowl in 2009, on the decline as a player. Clark is decent but replaceable, as is Reed. Most likely, the team wouldn't bust whatever figure they come up with as a cap to retain two or even all three of them. â†µâ†µ
â†µIf anything, the move is meant as a signal to the player's union that at least one owner has confidence that a labor contract will be made in the foreseeable future. Compared to the doom and gloom being aired by the NFLPA during Super Bowl week, it's the rare positive sign to fans that there is still hope for an NFL season in 2011. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.