Team Report - PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The SportsXchange

INSIDE SLANT

The NFL will not dock the Pittsburgh Steelers a 2014 draft pick because of the incident involving coach Mike Tomlin in the Thanksgiving night game against the Ravens in Baltimore, the team announced Thursday.

Tomlin earlier was fined $100,000 for standing on the field and nearly making contact with Baltimore kickoff returner Jacoby Jones.

At the time, the NFL informed the Steelers that there could be additional punishment in the form of making the team forfeit a pick in this year's draft.

In the second half of an eventual 22-20 loss to Baltimore, Tomlin strayed toward the sideline during a kickoff return. He eventually had a foot in the field of play as Jones approached. Tomlin flinched and jumped out of the way, and Jones cut to the inside.

"I always watch the returns on the Jumbotron to provide a better perspective," Tomlin explained at the time after the game. "And I obviously lost my placement."

Tomlin then apologized in a statement and went into further detail during a press conference later in the week.

"My descriptions of my actions on that play are a lot of things: embarrassing, inexcusable, illegal, a blunder, being many of the things I'd use to describe it," he said. "I take full responsibility for my actions on that play.

"My biggest error was not realizing that that play jeopardized the integrity of the game from a perception standpoint."

--Pittsburgh rolled up its sleeves and dug deep to create about $7 million in salary cap room as the new NFL year began.

It's not a lot to work with but they did not extract too much pain in getting there and they have some options - along with plenty of holes and depth problems.

The first order of business might have been to re-sign a few of their own free agents. Among their top targets are wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery after defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Al Woods left in free agency, but Cotchery also departed March 20.

Then they must look at some running backs and backup offensive linemen. Their only halfback who really has done anything is Le'Veon Bell, a rookie last season. Jonathan Dwyer departed and LaRod Stephens-Howlings is a UFAs who will get consideration - but not much of an offer - from them.

Two backup offensive linemen who can play guard or center, Fernando Velasco and Cody Wallace, each performed well for them in emergency roles and one or the other could be re-signed, which Wallace did.

The Steelers already have locked up linebacker Jason Worilds and Will Allen before they could become free agents. Worilds, under a one-year transition tag of $9,754,000, will replaced veteran LaMarr Woodley, who was released on a June 2 designation. They hope to come to a long-term deal with Worilds.

Other moves they made were to extend safety Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller two years each through 2016, saving nearly $8 million in cap room this year by doing so. They released veteran inside linebacker Larry Foote and third-round draft bust cornerback Curtis Brown for performance reasons and offensive tackle Levi Brown because they saved his $6.25 million salary and had no plans for him.

They also reworked the deal of Antonio Brown to create cap space this year and convinced cornerback Ike Taylor to reduce his 2014 salary in the final year of his contract from $7 million to $2.75 million.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The NFL announced each team's preseason schedule without precise dates or times, except for national TV games and the final preseason week in which all games will be on Thurs. Aug. 28. Week 1 games are Aug. 7-10, Week 2 Aug. 14-18 and Week 3 Aug. 21-24.

The Steelers will be at home against Buffalo in Week 2 and Carolina in Week 4, while going on the roads to play the New York Giants in Week 1 and Philadelphia in Week 3.

--Releasing LaMarr Woodley was rumored for months, ever since he was bumped out of his job at left outside linebacker by Jason Worilds in the second half of the season. Woodley has missed 14 games and parts of others over the past 2 1/2 seasons with mostly muscle injuries.

By designating him a June 2 cut, he can sign anywhere now but will count $13.59 million on their cap until June 2, when he drops to $5.59 because of the savings in his $8 million salary. He will then count $8.58 million against their cap in 2015, but nothing in 2016.

--Le'Veon Bell, taking part in a PETA ad campaign recently, had just one 100-yard game as a rookie, which started slow because of a sprained foot. He has loftier 100-yard game goals for his second season.

"No I am thinking in my head I want to get it every game now," he said.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Steelers signed punter Adam Podlesh to a one-year contract April 15.

Podlesh (5-foot-11, 200 pounds) was originally drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He spent the 2007-2010 seasons with Jacksonville and the 2011-2013 seasons with the Chicago Bears.

He has punted in 107 regular-season games, recording 467 punts for 19,816 yards with a long punt of 76 yards. Podlesh has averaged 40-plus yards per punt in every single season of his career and has 157 career punts downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line in the regular season.

"Very excited to be part of the storied franchise that is #Steelernation, time to get to work in the black and gold!!" Podlesh tweeted.

The only other punter on the roster is Brad Wing. Mat McBriar, who was the team's punter at the end of the 2013 season, is an unrestricted free agent.

TEAM NEEDS

--DEFENSIVE LINE: Three of the Steelers' top four defensive ends were UFAs and they weren't that good as a line anyway. Ziggy Hood and Al Woods left as free agents.

--SAFETY: Troy Polamalu has one more year in him and young Shamarko Thomas is untested with little depth behind them. They did add Mike Mitchell on the first day of free agency.

--WIDE RECEIVER: Antonio Brown was the only other proven receiver after the departure of Jerricho Cotchery. The addition of Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey should help, but more is needed.

PERSONNEL TRACKER

TRANSITION PLAYER: LB Jason Worilds (tendered at $9.754M; signed tender March 4).

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--WR Plaxico Burress missed all of 2013 with an arm injury. At age 37 in August, he would seem to be done as a player.

--RB Felix Jones was an emergency pickup in a trade with the Eagles and he stuck around all season, serving as the No. 1 backup for a while. He carried 48 times for 184 yards and could be finished as a player.

--DE Brett Keisel turns 36 in September in what he hopes will be his 13th NFL season. He seems ageless and has been effective in his last few years. However, the Steelers will not try to re-sign him unless they still have a need after the draft, if he is still available for minimum wage. He has said he wants to play this year.

--P Mat McBriar was the team's third punter since the final cutdown before the season and was mainly ineffective. An Australian native, he averaged 41.3 gross, 35.0 net and was not as good as the punter they let go to sign him, Zoltan Mesko. He will not return.

--RB LaRod Stephens-Howling was injured in the 2013 season opener after signing as a UFA, a season-ending ACL. He seems to have healed, but would only return if they cannot find someone else.

--LB Stevenson Sylvester has long been a backup on the inside and special teams player. However, his special teams play declined and he was released before the season began, only to be re-signed after the fourth game. He had 12 total tackles in nine games. Not likely to return.

--C/G Fernando Velasco saved the Steelers at center after Maurkice Pouncey was lost in the season opener with an ACL injury. Velasco was available, signed before the second game and started 11 games before his Achilles tendon tore Nov. 28. They would like to have him return as a backup.

--LB Jamaal Westerman was picked up by the Steelers on Dec. 17 and played in one game after he was released by the Buffalo Bills, where he had played in 12 games, mostly on special teams. He's not likely to return to the Steelers.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--S Will Allen: Potential UFA; terms unknown.

--TE Michael Palmer: UFA; terms unknown.

--C/G Cody Wallace: UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.

--LS Greg Warren: UFA; terms unknown.

--OL Guy Whimper: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--LB Jason Worilds: Transition FA; $9.754M/1 yr.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--RB LeGarrette Blount: UFA Patriots; $3.85M/2 yrs, $950,000 SB.

--WR Darrius Heyward-Bey: UFA Colts; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--CB Brice McCain: FA Texans; terms unknown.

--S Mike Mitchell: UFA Panthers; terms unknown.

--LB Arthur Moats: UFA Bills; $795,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.

--WR Lance Moore: FA Saints; $3M/2 yrs.

--P Adam Podlesh: FA Bears; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--DT Cam Thomas: UFA Chargers; $4M/2 yrs, $1M SB.

PLAYERS LOST

--CB Curtis Brown (released).

--T Levi Brown (released).

--S Ryan Clark: UFA Redskins; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--WR Jerricho Cotchery: UFA Panthers; 2 yrs, $2.25M SB.

--RB Jonathan Dwyer: UFA Cardinals; $795,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.

--LB Larry Foote (released).

--DE Ziggy Hood: UFA Jaguars; terms unknown.

--TE David Johnson: UFA Chargers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

--C/G Eric Olsen: Not tendered as ERFA/Titans; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--LB LaMarr Woodley (released/post-June 1 designation)

--WR Emmanuel Sanders: UFA Broncos; $15M/3 yrs, $6M guaranteed.

--DE Al Woods: UFA Titans; terms unknown.

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