PITTSBURGH - The NFL lockout is over. And now the league is operating in a fast forward mode.
Free agency issues need to be resolved, draft choices have to be signed, and rookies need to learn their playbooks.
All of this will be done without the benefit of an off-season, which means the pressure is on Steelers football operations director Kevin Colbert.
If all of that weren't enough, he also has to wrestle with the salary cap. Reports have the Steelers currently about $10 million over the spending limit.
Team president Art Rooney correctly noted that every team is in the same circumstances.
In fact, the Steelers may have a slight advantage in one regard.
They have a veteran group that should be able to get back up to speed fairly quickly.
Of course, there's also a hope the players have been maintaining their conditioning since things will be moving fast.
But with a holdover coach staff and roster that's fairly set, the Steelers should be able to get back to work smoothly.
The biggest issue for the Steelers will be compliance with the cap. They'll look to rework some existing contracts to get relief.
But will that be enough? Will the Steelers have to jettison a veteran in order to get under the cap?
Would they consider cutting veteran defensive end Aaron Smith, who has missed significant parts of the last two seasons because of injuries?
Smith is an important figure in the locker room. The Steelers declined to put him on injured reserve last season, holding out the faintest hope that he could come back in the post-season.
He didn't, but coach Mike Tomlin was willing to play a man short because of the slim chance that Smith could contribute.
As the Steelers look for ways to trim the payroll, could Smith be a victim?
The cap doesn't allow for a lot of sentiment. Jerome Bettis would have been cut if he hadn't been willing to revise his contract and get significantly less money in his last few seasons.
Dropping Bettis would have been tough, but necessary.
The Steelers may be facing more of those decisions as they get back to business.
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