More Spit than Smoke

Conventional wisdom had the Steelers moving cautiously into free agency. Furthermore, cap constraints did not paint Pittsburgh as big spenders. Finally, Kevin Colbert himself seemed to be indicating that the Steelers would be mostly dormant during the initial period of free agency. With the looming signing of FS Dexter Jackson, some of the smoke coming from the front office is beginning to clear.

"I think the cap has slowed down the whole process," Colbert commented about free agency. "Everybody's going to be more selective. It's not like the 12:01 signings are the thing to do anymore."

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been plenty selective. The South Side facilities have been busy with visitors. Safeties, quarterbacks, offensive linemen, and even linebackers have auditioned for the front office.

Thus far, all the action has yielded just a few signings. The Steelers re-signed TE Jerame Tuman and OG Keydrick Vincent early on and recently nabbed free agent LB Clint Kriewaldt away from the Detroit Lions (another typical Colbert move) in order to shore up the highly suspect special teams unit.

Now, Dexter Jackson rushes in and the Steelers appear to have addressed one of their needs in the defensive backfield (though Jackson will replace Brent Alexander, not the departed Lee Flowers). So much for "slowed down."

What are the Steelers up to?

Apparently, the front office is not all too excited about the prospects that look available at the 27th pick in the upcoming draft. The Steelers seem quite anxious to address their needs before the wading into the rookie crop.

Watching the hyperactive GM in Buffalo, Tom Donahoe, position himself in front of the Steelers at pick number 23 must have unsettled Bill Cowher and Colbert. Donahoe clearly went after the Steelers in the last draft, toying with the war room in Pittsburgh. The Steelers certainly do not want a repeat of last year when they panicked and picked Antwaan Randle El in the second round.

Simply put, the Steelers do not want to rely on the draft in their quest for another visit to the Super Bowl. Don't be surprised to see the Steelers even fill their needs at quarterback and offensive tackle before April 26th. There is no guarantee that quality players at either position will be there when the Steelers are on the clock in the first round.

While the front office wages a campaign of subterfuge, the Steelers cannot shake their history under Cowher and even under Colbert. Colbert has made a yearly ritual out of playing down the pending off-season activity and then turning around with a rash of signings. Colbert and Omar Kahn have proven to be quite successful at keeping free agent visitors in Pittsburgh after they arrive.

Cowher is even more transparent. Donahoe is most likely laughing in Buffalo watching Bill attempting to mask his draft intentions. Are the Steelers suddenly going to change draft philosophy? No, they are not. Forgetting any specific needs (which the Steelers seem bent on eradicating anyway), a draftnik could not go too wrong in simply predicting that the Steelers will draft an offensive lineman, wide receiver, or defensive back in the first round. If Kyle Boller falls, the Steelers could "shock" us all by drafting him. Though, if Boller falls far enough, watch Green Bay move up to grab him.

At first glance, the Steelers would appear to be increasing their draft options by signing Jackson. This might fool a fan or two, but the rest of the NFL isn't buying it. The Steelers are desperate players in this year's free agent market.

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