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Steelers unrestricted free agents should all hit open market

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 30: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates during the game with Max Starks #78 against the New England Patriots at Heinz Field on October 30, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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The Steelers have a challenging salary cap situation facing them this offseason. That will force them to make difficult decisions and hold off from spending before fre agency starts.

G.M. Kevin Colbert made it clear that he doesn’t expect to re-sign any of the team’s 11 unrestricted free agents before free agency starts in mid-March. Colbert knew this cap crunch was on the horizon.

“We’ve seen this coming for a while and we knew we would have to make some serious adjustments after this past season, because the previous season we didn’t have a salary cap and really we took some liberties that year that we would not have been able to in a capped year. Some of that carried over into this year,” Colbert said via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

That sounds pretty bad until you look at Pittsburgh’s list of free agents. The Steeler already re-signed the guys they really wanted to keep with long-term deals. Key free agents include cornerback William Gay, tackle Max Starks, wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, and quarterback Byron Leftwich.

Those are players the Steelers can afford to lose or allow to test the open market. In the meantime, Colbert admits the team still has a lot of “work to do” to get under the cap.

(Especially if they want to use the franchise tag on restricted free agent Mike Wallace.)