Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Art Rooney II talks Steelers offseason player and coaching situations.

On Monday, Steelers President Art Rooney II sat down and spoke with Mike Labriola of Steelers Digest regarding the offseason and what that means for Ben, Hines, the salary cap and which other players are of concern going forward. The talking points of the interview will be discussed here, but the first part of the interview can be seen on via this link:

One of the things spoken of firstly was the way the season ended. While the Steelers did finish 12-4 in the regular season, and were the only team to finish with 12 or more wins in three of the last four years, the early playoff ouster was certainly not expected. Rooney pointed out that the "goal is always a championship" and the Steelers fell short of said goal. He pointed out, though, that it's "not a situation where we're looking to tear things apart and start over." Further on the early exit he said, "You have to be careful about using injuries as an excuse." So, it's a matter of reloading, not rebuilding, and holding oneself accountable.

The next topic presented to Mr. Rooney was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Ben turns 30 this year and Mr. Rooney hopes that means that Ben is only half way through his career with the Steelers. But, he realizes that his taking fewer hits would be good for Ben, and also that fewer sacks would be good in general, which, as he stated, is a responsibility of the offense on the whole.

Speaking of players' careers, Mr. Rooney said he has talked to Hines Ward and will continue to talk to him, and others in the organization, about his future. Mr. Rooney was not ready to say, however, if Ward will be back for 2012 or not.

One of the points of interest, and sometimes contention, of late is the contract situation of Mike Wallace. When asked about the restricted free agent wide receiver, one of the brighter young stars of the Steelers offense,  Mr. Rooney said that "no question" Wallace will be one of the priorities in the offseason. He also said of defensive end Brett Keisel that he is "still being evaluated" after injurying his groin to determine if surgery is necessary.

One of the things that the Steelers must contend with this offseason is the salary cap restraints and the upcoming Rule of 51. At present, the Steelers are about $25 million over the cap. Per Mr. Rooney, it's "probably as big an issue as we've had to face" in reference to past cap issues. On how the cap issues affect the roster, he said: "There will be tough decisions." Keep on the watch starting March 1st, Steelers fans.

As other points of interest, Mr. Rooney said that he expects his father, Dan Rooney, to step down as Irish Ambassador and rejoin the Steelers in 2012, and that the Steelers will add 3,000 seats to Heinz Field after the 2012 season.

Although he cannot yet say which Steelers might retire or not be back,
Mr. Rooney did say a few Steelers coaches are also thinking about retirement. A point which possibly came to fruition this evening as Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette reported that Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians may not return in 2012.

Mr. Rooney was fairly candid in all he had to say regarding the Steelers and even stated that the team will be wearing new throwback uniforms in two home games in 2012 as part of a celebration of its 80th NFL season. As a part of the celebration of the NFL's 75 anniversary in 1994, the Steelers wore the old Pirates' striped jerseys. Will they be similar to those? Most likely not. The speculation is that the new throwbacks will be the "Batman" jerseys from the mid-to-late 60's. Appropriate, if so, considering The Dark Knight Rises, the newest Batman movie, was partly filmed in Pittsburgh and has scenes with Steelers players and at Heinz Field. Here is what that uniform looks like:

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE: It has been announced by the organization that the Steelers have signed 10 players to futures contracts: OG John Malecki, TE Jamie McCoy, OT Chris Scott, OT Trevis Turner, DT Corbin Bryant (all of whom re-signed with the team after spending 2011 on the Practice Squad), QB Jerrod Johnson, DL Mike Blanc, DT Kade Weston, CB Marshall McFadden and DB Antonio Smith.