December 30, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (53) and guard Ramon Foster (73) react to the fans as they take the field against the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What has the salary cap done for the Steelers?

You could ask that question for all 32 teams, but I don’t care what it has done for the other 31 teams.  I’m biased; I’m a Steelers’ fan.  Between the mediocre season and the issues from Mike Wallace’s hold-out last year, I knew there would be changes in the off season.  However, the organizational flail (perhaps a strong word) that I expected to ensue once free agency opened didn’t really happen.  The Steelers had very little money to work with, so there was no ability to woo any proven talent to the team to bolster the team.

I think I understand the reason for the salary cap, like in all the leagues it seems now.  They are trying to even the salary issue to give the small market teams more of a chance.  However, there is more to it than salary.  Sometimes it is about exposure.  Eli Manning and Mark Sanchez get a lot of press in New York and many times the bad press is really hard to deal with.  It’s relentless.  Sometimes the exposure gets the talented player more off-the-field deals and make the larger market more attractive.  The Steelers had always been known for playing hardball when it came to salary and not paying near what Dallas or the New York teams would.  That has changed lately.  I think I nearly fell out of my chair when Roethlisberger got his big contract a few years back.  The Steelers started to understand that to keep talent, they were going to have to reward the outstanding players with bigger contracts and they did.  Roethlisberger, Harrison, Woodley, Polamalu, Brown all got some good contracts, just to name a few.  And they deserved it.  However, it led the Steelers to where they are now.

I am not going to say that they should have found a way to keep Harrison or held onto Wallace at any cost.  That is just not how things work in the NFL today.  However, I am concerned that even with getting under the cap, they left themselves no room to bargain.  Right now, the Steelers are left with a significant amount of veterans on the defense and only a handful of standout, experienced players on the offense.  Where is the rest of the needed talent going to come from?  There are a lot of unknowns right now.  The draft, while interesting, is not going to add enough to the team to fill the holes.  The Steelers have to hope for a lot to go right.  The offense needs to find that chemistry and the plays needs to focus on the talent.  Hopefully, there will be some standouts among the newer players.  Speaking of talent, I agree that Roethlisberger needs to take fewer hits, but I have said it before:  There has to be room in the playbook for Ben to be Ben.  That is what makes him the talent his is.  Stop trying to change him so much.

Right now, I have to say that I think the salary cap has done nothing good for the Steelers.  The amount of focus that it took to get under the cap with the restructuring of contracts and letting other players go seemed like a very distracting effort for the franchise.  At this point I have little faith that 2013 will be any better than 2012.  I hope after the draft flail is over and the roster starts to solidify, there is a pleasant surprise.  However, I think there is a good chance that if the season is mediocre again, that Colbert, Tomlin, LeBeau and Hayley could be in the unemployment line.  If the downhill trend continues, how much patience will the ever-patient Dan Rooney and company have left?

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