Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Will Harrison, Polamalu and Clark be Steelers in 2013?

Math isn't my strong suit, but even I can tell that $24,922,500 is more than -$12,000,000.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing some tough decisions as they delve deeper into the offseason. Yet again, first among those decisions is the Salary Cap and Rule of 51 dilemmas that have them more upside down than the typical Fannie Mae home.

The reason that's said is because the $24.9M amount above is the Cap hit that would be taken from linebacker James Harrison and safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark alone. The negative $12 million is (most of) the amount that the Steelers are over the Cap. And as was stated in the previous "Salary Cap Update" article, those monies include the exclusive rights free agents, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Baron Batch. Then add to that the six restricted free agents, assuming all will be re-signed, and you have an approximate $8-$10 million more in contracts.

It doesn't take a math wiz at that point to figure out that not all three will be back. Harrison, though, may have made the decision as to which one that will be an easier one.

Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, told John Harris of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that they’re "certainly willing to do (restructure). Do we need to take less money? I don’t think so. Personally, I think he’s a bargain.”

An aging linebacker who has started/played in just 24 of a possible 32 regular season games in the last two years, who is coming off of multiple surgeries to his back and knee, who subsequently saw his production suffer and who will count $10,035,000 against the Cap is "a bargain?"

No, my finding a Franco Harris throwback jersey for a quarter the price because the never-saw-a-football-game-in-her-life salesgirl got the tags mixed up was a bargain. This is no bargain.

It isn't fiscally responsible, either. The problem that the Steelers face is that it might be cheaper to roll the dice and restructure (though, they would only save about $1 million in doing so). -

If the Cap casualty is Polamalu, though, his departure would clear $10,137,500. This is another player whose age and health could possibly mean that he won't be in a Steelers jersey next season. After all, the Steelers secondary did attain its number one status without him.

Don't worry, though. I'm not asking for his head on a pike, either. While defensive end Brett Keisel (who himself will count about $4,500,000 against the Cap and realizes he could also be gone next season) did say that the Steelers do "need some splash plays by those young guys" to bring the defense back to the level it had been before, that wasn't to mean that the veterans are just to be tossed aside.

The presence of a healthy Polamalu provides an almost unquantifiable comfort level and stability for the defense. At the same time, his presence often causes a great air of uncertainty for an offense and signal caller. Because of Polamalu's being able to be at the line of scrimmage to stuff runs or rush the quarterback, to play underneath given the pass play or to play deep on long passes, he must be accounted for when on the field.

That explosive play, splash-play ability, is what was often missing from the defense in 2012. They were solid to say the least, but lacked the triple threat. A threat that he showed signs of again in the final two games of the season. He is still, even with his absenteeism of late, a player the Steelers are better with than without.

But this game is still ultimately a business, and business is dictated by the bottom line. Saying that, it may be a 50/50 as to whether they cut losses and go younger or keep the veteran and chance that he can be healthy for the majority of the year.

A difficult decision to say the least. After all, this game is no country for old men, and I must ask, "What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss," Kevin Colbert?

The last being focused on here is free safety Ryan Clark. Clark left Twitter back on January 28, 2013 because he is, as his wife (@WriteHereYONKee) tweeted "Focusing on rehab & training."

The minor controversy it caused aside, Clark is scheduled for a Cap hit of around $4.75 million in 2013, the final year of his contract. Should he be released, the Steelers would also save the $3.5 million base salary he's due.

That said, he was arguably the Steelers defensive MVP of the first of 2012. He finished the season with 102 tackles, nine passes defensed, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He was the vocal leader of the defense and the Yin to Polamalu's Yang.

However, his other stats were two concussions and a deep thigh bruise to end the season, Add that to the fact he'll be 33 years old next year and it can be understood why his is a name considered for a possible release. A dilemma that surely has Omar Khan hanging this sign on his office door:

If It Ain't Steel's guess is that, of the three and despite proven backups at any of the positions discussed, Harrison is one most likely to be gone.

Still, whomever leaves, I don't need to need to be a math wiz to know that something has to give this offseason or the next numbers we could be considering are 8-8 x 2 = 2013.