The Pittsburgh Steelers have some work to do now in free agency!

Before we delve into the end of the lockout, and what that means for the Steelers in the coming weeks, I wanted to take just a second to appreciate what Patriots owner Robert Kraft meant to getting the deal done, and football back on our minds.

Of course I can’t stand Kraft for everything his teams have done to the black and gold over the years, but watching him speak at the podium yesterday announcing the lockout was over, after everything he has recently been through was quite remarkable.

Just last week, Kraft’s wife of over 40 years passed away. Reports say immediately after Kraft had finished sitting Shiva (the Jewish mourning period) he boarded a plane to meet with representatives in the final hours of the lockout to ensure the deal was finished. It was a commitment like this, which was shared by many other individuals, that allowed this lockout to end, and I am thankful we can get back to business in the league we all love so much.

Now enough with all that mushy stuff; lets break down the timeline of events that will take place this week in what surely will be the most hectic signing period in the history of the league.

As of 10 a.m. today, trading begins. Teams are able to sign rookies and negotiate with, but not sign, veteran free agents. This time period could be compared to the days before the college football signing period. Athletes can commit to schools verbally before they are actually allowed to officially sign. Over the next few days there will be an intense amount of wheeling and dealing between agents and teams. Because no player is officially allowed to sign with any team, the amount of speculation taking place this week will be out of control.

On Thursday at 4 p.m. teams can begin to cut players. Thursday has even more significance for the Steelers, because this is the day the team will report to training camp. It is good for the Steelers that cuts will be allowed on Thursday, because the team is forced to report to camp with 90 players on the roster. In order to meet the required number of players to start training camp, the Steelers have already signed 15 undrafted rookies. Here is the list of rookies that will suit up for the Steelers, at least for the time being:

Vaughn Charlton, TE/HB (Temple)
John Clay, HB (Wisconsin)
Terrence McCrae, WR (Ohio)
Armand Robinson, WR (Miami University)
Adam Mims, WR (Furman)
Weslye Saunders, TE (South Carolina)
Colin Miller, C (Central Michigan)
Trevis Turner, OT (Abilene Christian)
Brent Greenwood, S (Iowa)
Niles Brinkley, CB (Wisconsin)
Eric Clanton, OLB (Citadel)
Mario Harvey, MLB (Marshall)
Miguel Chavis, DE (Clemson)
Anthony Gray, DT (Southern Miss)
Eric Greenwood, WR (Idaho

At 6 p.m. on Friday, teams can officially sign free agents. The Steelers have so many issues to work out as far as free agents go, that this will be a very trying period for the organization. What will the team do as far as resigning Ike Taylor, what about Willie Colon? The Steelers have to keep an eye on the future as well. Lamarr Woodley, Troy Polamalu, Lawrence Timmons, and Mike Wallace are all up for new contracts in the near future. It troubles me a little that all of these moves need to be made in such a short time period. I know the Steelers have obviously been considering what to do with these contracts during the lockout, but now that the time has come, serious actions have to take place.

On August 4, clubs must be within the salary cap. The Steelers have a lot of work to do in this area as well, considering the team in $10 million over the cap. I expect many of the veterans that we have come to love to be cut from the team to make room for the cap. Players such as Randle El, and Foote may not be on the team after Thursday.

There is no denying this will be a crazy time period for owners, players, media, and everyone involved in football. I can’t wait to see how things will unfold, and NPC will have all the news for Steelers Nation as it breaks.

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