Thursday, March 01, 2007

Reading the Tea Leaves

While the signing of Aaron Smith to a four year extension was as much about creating salary cap space as it was securing the services of one of the more underrated defensive linemen in the NFL, the future of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense also is beginning to take shape.

While no one in the Steelers' organization has explicitly said that Joey Porter is on his way out, Mike Tomlin's tepid endorsement of Mr. Porter, combined with this renewed commitment to Mr. Smith, would seem to indicate that the long-term view within the organization is that Mr. Smith's value to a 3-4/4-3 blended defense is significantly greater than Mr. Porter's. Of course, a new contract for Mr. Porter would render all of this conjecture meaningless, if not ridiculous; however the Steelers have an overall history of being careful with their free agent dollars and have been more than willing to allow more than a few linebackers (e.g. Levon Kirkland, Greg Lloyd, Mike Vrabel) depart.

Clearly then the next part of this equation will be the draft. Should the Steelers opt for defensive ends, especially in the early rounds, it would be confirmation that Joey Porter's days in the Black & Gold are limited.

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