Unraveling Secrets

It's been a long, hard six weeks of Steelers conjecture, rumor mill and just flat wrong predictions. So here's the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

INDIANAPOLIS -- My man, he gets around.

Last week he took on the moniker "Anonymous," and, wow, he caused quite a stir.

I talked to him as soon as I got to the NFL Combine. He said he's recovering fairly well from the ordeal, but that he's now going by the name "Source Close to the Team."

I didn't write anything he told me. I never write without first checking with "High Level Source with Intimate Knowledge of the Situation."

And I had to wait for him to get off the radio Thursday, but he eventually stopped by.

So there I was, armed with my newfound "intimate knowledge," on my way to the Kevin Colbert press conference. I held my breath so that Colbert wouldn't blow the lid off of what I had learned.

He didn't.

The Steelers' GM was asked about his comment last month that "We'd be silly to expect a better result with the same group of guys."

Colbert didn't say so, but here's the truth: The Steelers will not be cutting any of their healthy starters to get under the salary cap by March 12.

The Steelers believe they can restructure enough contracts, and possibly extend Ben Roethlisberger far enough into perpetuity, so they can retain James Harrison, Brett Keisel and all of the elder warriors who've made the Steelers' locker room the bastion of teamwork that's enabled three Super Bowl appearances in the last eight seasons.

I'm not being sarcastic with that last part, either.

Anyway, their free agents are another matter. The Steelers expect to lose Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall and Max Starks from their starting lineup. And Casey Hampton, Ramon Foster, Larry Foote and Keenan Lewis will have to come back at the right price or not at all.

Lewis, a 27-year-old coming off a breakthrough season, is the most valuable of those latter players, but the Steelers will let him test the market.

They believe that Lewis and his 1 career interception won't attract much interest. They also believe that Lewis – like Chris Kemoeatu a few years ago – won't want to go through the process of learning a new scheme.

So the Steelers will wait for Lewis to dip his toe into the water before they make contact.

The Steelers do intend to bring Foote back. They're worried that Sean Spence won't recover from the sickening knee injury he suffered last preseason. And by the same token we can expect the Steelers to draft a young inside linebacker to replace Spence as Foote's eventual successor.

But that player won't be Manti Te'o.

The Steelers like Te'o as a player, but don't want him anywhere near their locker room; not for fear of what he will do to it, but instead of what they – the veterans – will do to him.

No, they don't want those kinds of problems around.

And what about that locker room?

Yes, it's still a "bastion of teamwork," as I called it just a few paragraphs ago. The Steelers believe that. Of course they weren't happy that someone ripped Woodley, but, frankly, they agreed with a part of it. Yet, they still believe in Woodley. A complete restructuring of his contract will be a testament to that belief, and it will also free up the needed cash.

While the anonymous comment about Woodley did spark a cacophony of what Mike Tomlin likes to call "elevator music," it remains just that: elevator music.

There was actually more support coming from the four corners of their locker room than any further indication of a fracturing.

The Steelers had to laugh, though, when Antonio Brown joined the ranks of the outraged.

Brown is a member of the "Young Money Crew," a group of receivers that repeatedly drew the ire of veterans last season because of their selfish behavior. Tomlin even brought in noted tough guy assistant Richard Mann just to deal with "Young Money," which is now known as "Loose Change" around the practice facility.

No, the underperformance of the wide receivers last season in – more irony – Hines Ward's first season of retirement was one of the base reasons for 8-8. But their showing had nothing to do, I'm told, with the departure of WRs coach Scottie Montgomery, who was overwhelmed by an offer from Duke, a heretofore woebegone football program that's coming off a bowl appearance.

The departures of three Steelers assistant coaches, in fact, had nothing to do with Todd Haley, or "rats deserting a sinking ship," or any other overhyped fantasy the sports media has been tossing out there of late.

This, I knew as well, but so did everyone else standing in the corridor of the Combine as they tried to think up questions to ask Colbert.

So the secrets remained safe.

Until now ...

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