Steelers GM has work cut out for him

PITTSBURGH – Mike Wallace’s calling card is his speed, so it’s no coincidence that he went flying out of Pittsburgh as soon as NFL free agency opened.

Wallace signed with the Miami Dolphins for a deal that guarantees him $30 million and offers a chance to make $65 million.

The Steelers will certainly have a different look next season. Whether they’re better remains to be seen, but it seems to be trending in the opposite direction after a mediocre 8-8 non-playoff season.

The salary cap and some sub-standard drafts have caught up with them, and it could impact the team for several years.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves – this is mid-March. The season opens in September. A lot can (and probably will) happen between now and then. The draft could bring some immediate help. Cap-stressed as they are, the Steelers could still sign a free agent.

And although the NFL is not a big trading league, there’s still the possibility of a deal. The Steelers acquired Jerome Bettis in a trade.

Re-signing Larry Foote helps keep some stability on defense, at least for next season. Plaxico Burress is a nice tall red zone target, but bringing him back for another season doesn’t really address the team’s issues at wide receiver.

It’s a double whammy conspiring against the Steelers: They’re getting older and the cap issues are being deferred rather than solved. They’ve restructured enough existing contracts to burn the batteries on a couple of calculators, but that’s a temporary fix rather than a long-term solution.

The Steelers went into this offseason looking for a lot of hope. More leaks have sprung with the start of free agency.

General manager Kevin Colbert’s task is bigger than it’s ever been in his tenure as GM.

Cap issues

The Cleveland Browns headed into free agency with more than $40 million of cap space. Some of that vanished when they signed Baltimore Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger, who has been a Steelers’ nemesis.

Kruger stays in the AFC North, but he isn’t likely to be as much of a problem to the Steelers with the Browns as he was with the Ravens.

In fact, there’s a theory that much of Kruger’s effectiveness with the Ravens came because teams were focusing so much on Terrell Suggs. Sometimes it’s hard to tell how much of a force a player is on his own, and how much of his success depends on the scheme or the presence of other players.

Mehno can be reached at