After working furiously for more than a week to get under the $120.4 million salary cap, the Steelers finally got their full roster on the field for practice Thursday.
That included their own free agents who re-signed - cornerback Ike Taylor, offensive tackles Willie Colon and Jonathan Scott, running back Mewelde Moore, etc. - who had to wait until the new labor deal was ratified by the players.
"Today it feels like training camp has officially started now that we have all of our guys back out there," said wide receiver Hines Ward."
Of course, Ward himself is still sidelined while recovering from thumb surgery.
It has been since the heartbreaking Super Bowl loss to Green Bay that many of the Steelers have been on the field together.
"I kissed my helmet today for the first time," said Colon. "I was sitting next to Crezdon Butler and he was like 'Did you kiss your helmet.' I told him I missed it. It still has the scuff marks on it."
For Colon, Taylor and the other free agents with new deals, it was several days of sitting on the sideline waiting for the go ahead to practice.
"It's been different just watching," said Taylor. "I am glad to be back on the field with the boys. I was so used to being on the field with them and to just watch them work ... there is no work like football work. I am just glad to be back on the field."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, linebacker James Harrison and defensive end Brett Keisel were among those who restructured their contracts to defer payments and allow the Steelers leeway to maneuver on the transaction wire.
"I'm willing to do whatever it takes," Harrison said Tuesday, "for the betterment of the team."
Roethlisberger adjusted the remainder of the $102 million, eight-year deal he signed prior to the 2008 season but didn't lose any money or years from that initial deal.
The financial albatross the team hopes to move is the one-year franchise tender for linebacker LaMarr Woodley. He's scheduled to earn $10.1 million this season, which is also his cap figure, after making $550,000 in 2010. Woodley indicated on Tuesday that he hasn't yet been approached by the team about a long-term deal.
"When it's time to talk, it's time to talk," he said.
The Steelers were able to sign Taylor, their top priority in the open market, but have been less active since that early strike.
"Other teams are doing the same thing we're doing, and sometimes the demand will drive that market and we have to decide whether we want to be in it or not," president of football operations Kevin Colbert said. "We have to decide if we do get in it what it will cost us on the other end and can we handle it? That's something we have to judge daily. We have to find ways to get under and in compliance and we're going to look at every and all possibilities."
The Steelers reported to training camp at their usual outpost, Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, on Thursday, held two practices without pads and then donned pads for the first time Sunday. They leave camp Aug. 17.
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