The Turk has made several more visits to the Steelers.
Yesterday, the team cut veteran wide receiver Hines Ward. Today, veterans James Farrior, Aaron Smith, and Chris Kemoeatu were added to the salary cap casualties.
Most fans thought that Aaron Smith would retire anyway. He has sat out a portion of the season with injuries in 4 of the past 5 years. Smith turns 36 in April, and the combination of age and injuries probably made his retirement inevitable. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to see him go.
Like Smith, James Farrior was a stalwart on the Steelers’ defense. He was a defensive captain, and he called most of the defenses.
Farrior, who is 37 years old, spent his first 5 seasons in the NFL with the New York Jets, and the past 10 seasons with the Steelers.
Farrior split time with Larry Foote last year, and fans have said that he looked visibly slower for the past three seasons. So his release also didn’t come as a surprise.
Chris Kemoeatu’s release will probably be received differently than Ward’s, Smith’s, and Farrior’s were. While the latter three were long-time fan favorites, and contributed greatly to the Steelers’ success, Kemoeatu was more of an enigma.
Kemoeatu is a massive guard who replaced Alan Faneca when he signed a free agent contract with the New York Jets. I had very high hopes for Kemoeatu. But those hopes were quickly dashed.
Despite his size and speed, Kemoeatu developed a habit of making costly mental mistakes. He could be counted on to jump off-sides, hold his opponent, or get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. And it always seemed to come at the worst possible time. We expect boneheaded mistakes from rookies, but they’re not acceptable from veterans like Kemoeatu.
Eventually, the Steelers coaching staff reached the same conclusion that I had reached years ago; Kemoeatu had to go. He was benched during the 2011 season, and now he’s been released from the team.
These are sad days for the Steelers, but they were inevitable. The team was $25 million over the salary cap at the beginning of the off-season. So they not only had to get under the salary cap, but they also had to free up cap space to sign Mike Wallace and any rookies or free agents that they acquire through the draft or free agency.
With the cuts and salary restructuring that the Steelers have done, they have shaved $37 million from their salary cap.
Now they need to sign Mike Wallace to a long-term deal.