The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently right up against the salary cap, and will have to make a number of roster moves before free agency starts to keep everything in order. A number of aging players are on very large salaries in Pittsburgh, while some of the team's key contributors are restricted or unrestricted free agents. Some players who have been members of the Steelers for approximately a decade will have to pack their bags or agree to pay cuts if they want to stick around.
Pittsburgh Steelers blog Behind The Steel Curtain is taking a look at the Steelers' salary cap issues. Hines Ward has said he will take a pay cut, while Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith will not be kept around at their current salaries. The biggest issue probably lies with inside linebackers Larry Foote and James Farrior.
With James Farrior and Larry Foote - the current buck linebackers - it seems at least one of them will have to take a paycut to stay in town. The Steelers could decide to cut one and reduce the contract of the other, but the main concern with this is depth. The buck is the quarterback of the defense - the guy who makes the pre-snap adjustments at the line. The Steelers will not find anyone this year more experienced and ready to play the position in this regard than Farrior or Foote, so the release of either of them will hurt this team on the field in the short run. It's something that likely has to be done though, so expect the Steelers to find someone in this year's draft to groom for the spot in 2013.
In addition to cuts and pay cuts with veteran players, the Steelers could also opt to re-structure Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu to create some cap flexibility. Also, star wide receiver Mike Wallace is a restricted free agent, and the Steelers could have to make the decision to match a large contract or accept a first-round pick in return. He will certainly be given a first-round tender, and will be due $2.742 million next season if a team does not sign him to an offer sheet.
For more on the Steelers' salary cap issues and free agency dealings, head over to Pittsburgh Steelers blog Behind The Steel Curtain.