Off-season Buzz
The Steelers focus will quickly turn towards defensive tackle Casey Hampton in the coming weeks and to some extent right tackle Willie Colon, who the coaching staff regards as the Steelers best offensive lineman.
Hampton, 32, is coming off his best season of his career and is in line for one last pay day. The Steelers did not make an offer prior to the 2009 season but have had a change of heart and will make Hampton a priority.
The pressure will be on the Steelers lock up Hampton to a long-term deal before free agency begins.
“If they let me get to free agency, everybody knows what it’s going to be,” Hampton said in September. “There ain’t nothing to even talk about.”
The easy avenue for the Steelers to explore is putting the franchise tag on Hampton but sources indicate Hampton’s representatives have made it known that Hampton will hold out if he is franchised and has no intentions of playing on a one year deal at the age of 33.
“That {Franchise Tag} is something I do not want,” Hampton said. “I think when I am healthy that I am a dominant player,” Hampton said. The Steelers are likely to accommodate Hampton’s wishes out of respect for Hampton, only if the team doesn’t think there is a way the two sides would be able to strike a long-term deal down the road.
Last February, the Steelers franchised left tackle Max Starks but both sides were on the same page regarding a long-term deal as months later a four year deal was reached.
The Steelers plan to make a front loaded offer to Hampton, weeks before the NFL scouting combine in February, which is when the Steelers will have to make a decision on their franchise and transition tags.
Internally the Steelers are prepared to make a “Pat Williams” type of offer to Hampton.

In 2008, the Minnesota Vikings signed pro bowl defensive tackle Pat Williams to a 3 year deal worth $22 million with $9.5 million guaranteed.
At the time of signing, Williams was 34 years old about one month shy of his 35th birthday and was coming off a pro bowl season.
League speculation is that Hampton’s representatives will use the “Williams deal” as leverage that their client is worth the $13-$14+ million in guarantees, that many believe Hampton will easily land on the open market.
Pittsburgh is likely to head into these talks with a gap between the two sides of $4-$5 million in guaranteed money.
Hampton has a lot of leverage when the first set of substantive talks begin in a few weeks, due to the current market, Steelers lack of depth, and the season Hampton just had.
But, if Pittsburgh throws out the “respect factor” for Hampton, they can use the threat of the franchise tag to lower Hamptons’ demands.
Colon likely to be a RFA
The potential of an uncapped year could protect starting right tackle Willie Colon from hitting the free agent market.
If a new CBA agreement is not agreed upon before February 28th, Willie Colon will be a restricted free agent. Colon is currently slated to be an unrestricted free agent but many league insiders believe a miracle will have to happen for the NFL and the players association to strike a new deal before free agency.
However, the Steelers are very open to locking up Colon long-term as he is regarded by the coaching staff as the Steelers best offensive lineman.
What Colon also has going for him is that Mike Tomlin has been a strong supporter of Colon’s since naming Colon the teams’ starting right tackle in 2007 out of training camp, benching Max Starks.
The Steelers will reach out to Colon in the near future.