LATROBE, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Steelers might be "open for business," as general manager Kevin Colbert put it Monday, but there are several constraints when it comes to signing some of their own players to new long-term deals.
The Steelers have a little less than six weeks to get signings done because they don't negotiate contracts once the season starts. Colbert said they have less than $6 million under the salary cap, but the reality is the Steelers don't even have that much money to spend on new deals.
They will have to retain a healthy surplus to be used on signings during the season with the inevitability that some of their players will end up on the injured reserve list at some point.
One way in which the Steelers could shore up a critical position long term and also create immediate cap room is by signing outside linebacker Jason Worilds to a long-term contract.
Worilds' cap hit this season is $9.754 million since he signed the one-year contract the Steelers offered him when they used a transition tag on the fifth-year veteran to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
The Steelers could significantly lower Worilds' 2014 cap hit by signing him to a multiyear contract, which would allow them to spread the signing bonus over the length of the deal.
Colbert said Worilds is among the Steelers players who are candidates to receive a new contract, and Worilds has said that he wants to stay in Pittsburgh.
How much the Steelers are willing to give the player who finally came into his own in the second half of 2013 remains to be seen. Colbert said the Steelers won't be leery of making a significant investment in Worilds even though the 2010 second-round draft pick has yet to produce at a high level for an entire season.
"That's what our job is to try to predict future success," Colbert said. "It's no different [when] you draft a player out of college and he gets a substantial amount of money in the first round and he's never played a down. A lot of what we do is taking calculated risks."
The risk with Worilds is overpaying a player who has 18 sacks in four NFL seasons -- and getting burned like the Steelers did by the six-year, $61.5 million contract they gave LaMarr Woodley, whom Worilds has replaced at left outside linebacker, in 2011.
The question the Steelers have to answer is whether they have to see more from their top pass-rusher before signing Worilds to a lucrative long-term deal.