Steelers will get busy with free agency and practices

Associated Press


New Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake walked through the team’s practice facility on Pittsburgh’s South Side late Monday afternoon with a purpose.

“Now,” Lake said as he headed up the stairs to the coaches’ offices, “the real work begins.”

Hours after the NFL’s four-and-a-half-month lockout was officially lifted, things weren’t quite back to normal yet at Steelers headquarters. But they were at least on the way to getting there.

By today, players will be permitted to report to the team facility for voluntary workouts. And like the other 31 teams, the Steelers will be able to open negotiations with unsigned players.

Still, expect some confusion and chaos during what will be a frenzied week. Even Steelers president Art Rooney II — a member of the owners’ labor committee — was hazy on the terms of the transition period for the new collective bargaining agreement and its compacted schedule.

The Steelers will report to St. Vincent College in Latrobe by 3 p.m. Thursday and will perform a conditioning drill. Their first official practice is Friday.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said back in March that the lockout could, in fact, be an advantage to the Steelers. The team has a veteran roster already set in its ways that, the theory goes, has less to gain from offseason workouts than a younger, less-experienced team.

Also, Tomlin reasoned, the Steelers annually undergo little turnover relative to many other teams. Plus, there was less wear-and-tear this summer on the team’s older bodies.

Pittsburgh has 14 unrestricted free agents and two restricted free agents, but only one of those players (cornerback Ike Taylor) started on offense or defense last season. Also, the Steelers are currently over the salary cap of $120 million, and Rooney said the team will be talking with some its players about restructuring their contracts to provide cap relief this season.