Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Steelers May Be Smarter Than We Thought

Were the Steelers as crazy for drafting 3 linebackers in the 2010 draft as we thought they were? It’s looking more and more like they’re not.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one scratching my head on draft weekend when the Steelers, who have many positions ripe for improvement, drafted three players at arguably their strongest position. Especially 2nd round pick Jason Worilds, who was not on the radar of most fans. Even after the draft, pundits and writers all asked, “Why would they draft 3 linebackers?”

Well, we’re beginning to find out.

It looks as if the Steelers are miles away from an agreement with star LB LaMarr Woodley. Understandably so on both sides, because a clause in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, the “30 percent” rule, has stymied discussion. By the 30% rule, a player cannot increase his salary by more than 30% in a given year. Woodley is in the last year of his contract, and making less than half a million dollars a year. This is a guy who would likely fetch between $7-9 million per year on the open market, and trust me, Woodley knows that. If there is no new Collective Bargaining Agreement, we could be looking at a Steeler team without LaMarr Woodley in 2011.

When a star player is nearing retirement, most teams have a contingency plan for that player’s departure. Prior to the 2010 draft, the Steelers had no such plan in place for James Farrior. Farrior, who has been the vocal leader and the stalwart of the Pittsburgh defense for the past 8 seasons, undeniably lost a step last season. He uncharacteristically missed tackles and had difficulty catching up to opposing running backs. Thaddeus Gibson will likely be groomed for the position, as he has a great ability to sniff out the ball carrier and cover the middle of the field.

I sincerely hope that we’re not seeing the last year for players like LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior.

But it’s good to have a contingency.

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