New CBA helps Steelers

Could a new labor agreement mean that Antwaan Randle El stays in Pittsburgh?

With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement now in place, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves $11 million under the salary cap.

That may not turn them into buyers on the free agent market, but it may assure that they aren't the sellers they looked to be a week ago.

The Steelers have been in contact with the agents for wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, safety Chris Hope, cornerback Deshea Townsend, tight end Jerame Tuman and defensive ends Kimo von Oelhoffen and Brett Keisel, even though the team would have had to restructure the contracts of other players to have a chance to re-sign any of those players.

They may not be able to keep all of those players, but certainly signing at least a couple of them to new deals is now a possibility.

Of course if the Steelers find themselves with some extra money, so too do other teams in the league. That means the price may have gone up in the market to keep guys like Randle El, who will be targeted by a number of teams.

What the new CBA does assure is that the Steelers won't have to part ways with either of the centers on their roster to stay under the cap.

The team had been in contact with the agent for starter Jeff Hartings trying to work out a deal in which it could lower Hartings' salary for 2006, the final year of his contract. Hartings is due a $750,000 roster bonus today that pushes his base salary to $4.75 million and his cap hit to $8 million.

The Steelers would like to lower that number.

Backup Chukky Okobi also sees his salary jump to $2 million this season, meaning the Steelers will have $10 million wrapped up in that position.

The team would still like to lower the salary cap hits for both players, but the urgency to do so isn't the same as it was when the cap was $94.5 million.

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