A lot of buzz going around right now that the Tennessee Titans will be the team that comes to Heinz field for the NFL‚Äôs Thursday night season opener in 2009. The San Diego Chargers are believed to be the second choice at this point.
The opportunity will be presented to the Baltimore Ravens for a rematch of the AFC Championship game to open the 2009 season but it is likely that they will decline like the Denver Broncos did in 06.
Steelers 2009 Schedule
Home: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings
Away: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions
An Inside Look at players who will be entering the final year of their contract in 09. Who will receive an extension and who likely won’t
Harrison to command over $20 million in guaranteed money?
The 2008 defensive player of the year was one of the most under-paid players in the NFL last season making an annual salary of $1.2 million. Harrison who has one year remaining on his contract is now going to become one of the NFL‚Äôs highest paid linebackers
Negotiations with Harrison will begin early next week, the Steelers and Harrison‚Äôs agent Bill Parise believe a deal will get finalized in the next 14-17 days.
Two years ago Joey Porter received a 5 year – $32 million deal with $20 million in guaranteed money. Harrison, 30, is believed to be seeking $20-$23 million in guaranteed money and the Steelers are interested in a front loaded deal.
Number of players with one year remaining on their contract
In addition to Harrison, the Steelers have a group of players who could be entering 2009 with one year remaining on their contract. The list includes tight end Heath Miller, safety Ryan Clark, wide receiver Hines Ward, nose tackle Casey Hampton defensive end Brett Keisel, kicker Jeff Reed, nose tackle Casey Hampton, cornerback Deshea Townsend and linebacker Larry Foote.
Behind James Harrison, tight end Heath Miller is the Steelers top priority of players with one year remaining. The Steelers who believe Miller is one of the top three tight ends in the NFL, will lock him up to an extension prior to training camp. 6 years worth $28 – $30 million is a number being speculated right now.
Harrison and Miller are guarantees to receive extensions.
1. WR Hines Ward ‚Äì Age 32, will be 33 at the start of training camp
Skinny: Hines Ward is expected to have off-season knee surgery. He has indicated he wants to play for two-three more years. He must embrace the role of being a third down receiver once his contract runs out after next season and if he does, he could still be a very productive receiver for the next couple seasons.
2. DT Casey Hampton, – Age 31, will be 32 at the start of the season.
Skinny: Hampton will not receive an extension from the Steelers. At age 32, he could be entering his final season in a Steelers uniform.
Skinny: Clark has been a perfect compliment for Troy Polamalu. Has a reasonable salary and the Steelers would likely be open to signing Clark to a 2-3 year extension at the right price.
Skinny: Reed has been one of the most consistent kickers in the NFL the past couple years. He will be back following the 2009 season.
Skinny: All three starters on the Steelers defensive line are in their 30‚Äôs. An area the Steelers must address via the draft or free agency.
Skinny: Fairly young and a productive run stopper. Also has a reasonable salary and the Steelers would like to keep him around. Issue is Foote wants to be a full-time starter. Lawrence Timmons will see even more of a increase in playing time in 09. Steelers will listen to offers for Foote. Detroit has been mentioned as a possible destination.
Skinny: Townsend is getting up there in age but might have found his perfect role as a 3rd or 4th cornerback in the Steelers system. Whether he returns after 09 will depend on his play next season.
Skinny: Will be in the final year of a four year deal he signed in 2006. He will enter the 2009 season battling 2008 1st round pick Rashard Mendenhall for carries.