If the Steelers sign quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who will visit them this morning, that could mean the end for Charlie Batch. Both are Pittsburgh natives.
The popular theory after last season was that Batch would return, Byron Leftwich would not and the Steelers would have a young quarterback on the squad as No. 3. It seems unlikely they will again carry two veteran quarterbacks behind Ben Roethlisberger.
The ideal situation for the Steelers would be to have one veteran as No. 2 on the roster and have another on the practice squad. There really is no need anymore to have three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster as the Steelers have done for a long time. It might have made some sense when teams could designate a third quarterback for games, but they did away with that rule and merely converted it into an active roster spot for any player. No one dresses three quarterbacks for games any more, so why have three on the 53-man roster?
If a quarterback were to get hurt and be out for an extended period – the way Roethlisberger missed three games last season – the team could merely sign its young quarterback from the practice squad to the active roster. By having the young, third quarterback on the practice squad, the team saves a roster position and the No. 3 quarterback gets the same amount of practice time and other work as he would if he were on the 53.
Onto some stuff:
--- Maybe I missed it, but I have not seen one word on Keenan Lewis yet in free agency. The only thing I read was that the Cleveland Browns were not real interested in him. That may be the biggest surprise on the first day of free agency involving the Steelers. Many have thought that he would be scooped up quickly. He still may be, and he and his agent are just keeping things quiet, which would really be against the tide.
--- The Steelers plan to cut Willie Colon today and they did him wrong – not by cutting him, but by not being upfront with him about their intentions. As of yesterday, they still had said nothing to him or his agent. He was a loyal player, albeit an injured one. Yes, he made a lot of money from them and this can be a cold business, but the Steelers are supposed to be above that and he did turn down an extra $5 million from the Chicago Bears to re-sign with the Steelers in 2011.
--- Those who criticized Mike Wallace’s long holdout might now better understand why he did it.
--- Free agency might have swung the pendulum to the Cincinnati Bengals as the favorite to win the AFC North Division in 2013.
--- Onto your questions:
--- YOU: Hi Ed - Can you explain the "dead money" concept? If 80% of the money they "saved" for releasing Colon just gets pushed to next year, why would they do it? With all the restructuring and now dead money, it seems like the Steelers are going to be in a scary place cap-wise in 2014, 2015, etc. Are they creating a bubble that will eventually burst? This isn't baseball with unlimited budgets where the Mets can pay Bobby Bonilla for decades without any service in return. What say you?
ME: They’ve been doing it for a number of years now. Teams like the Steelers who believe they are championship calibre try to keep their best players and to do so must pay them. They push cap money into the future, then restructure those deals and, in an example like Ben Roethlisberger, just keep doing it. To not do it would mean to have to release more valuable players. It means they also must ask players to take pay cuts like Casey Hampton last season and release them when they do not, like James Harrison. If you’re smart enough, you can keep doing it to an extent without overdoing it. That’s the balance the Steelers have been striking, really, because they’ve kept a good team together for a long time.
--- YOU: I read that the Steelers offered James Harrison
a contract where a lower 2013 salary + incentives would equal
the 2013 salary under his old contract.
Had Harrison accepted that deal, would the incentives
paid be covered under the a) 2013 cap b) 2014 cap
or c) some prorated basis over the life of the new contract?
ME: There are two types of incentives treated under the salary cap, those expected to be earned and those not expected to be earned. Those expected to be earned must count under the salary cap and the others do not. Stay with me now. If the “expected” are not actually earned in, say, 2013, then the team gets that cap space back in 2014. If the “unexpected” are actually earned in 2013, then the team will be docked for those under the 2014 cap. Perfomrnace incentives used to be more important than they are these days, when players just prefer to have the money in their contract.
--- YOU: Living in NY I don't get to hear Pittsburgh sports radio but they were just discussed on radio here by Mike Francesa. Some of his points were that the Steelers have lost their way the last couple of years. He says no team is better at finding and developing players. He thinks they have a great head coach and a great QB but need to get back to being the Steelers. He doesn't feel that they've managed their cap well the last couple of years and combined with some so so drafts they've taken a step back. He says their step back compared to other teams is all relative but it's still a step back. Do you think this is a fair out of town media assessment? If so, how do you think they get back to being the Steelers?
ME: No, I just think the NFL is built for teams to have cycles, up and down, through the draft, the salary cap, free agency, the waiver system, etc. The league has been obsessed with parity for decades, back to when Pete Rozelle openly campaigned for it. The Steelers, for the most part, have avoided the real downs of that cycle for more than 20 years. Last season, they finished 8-8, as they did in 2006, and with a victory in their next-to-last game would have made the playoffs. They were 12-4 in 2011 and reached the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons in 2010. Does one 8-8 season mean they have lost their way? Or was he referring to all the veterans they are expected to lose this year? Maybe they are headed for a dip, but I don’t think they’ve lost their way.
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