They always say “You can’t go home again.”
Evidently the Pittsburgh Steelers scoff at that philosophy. For the second time since free agency started, the Steelers have brought back one of their ex-players. This time, it’s linebacker Larry Foote, who signed a three year/$9.3 million contract yesterday. Since free agency as we know it went into effect about fifteen years ago, the Steelers have always adopted the Godfather-like stance of once you leave the family, you’re dead to them.
Now all of a sudden, they bring back not one former player but two.
The irony in saying “you can’t go home again” is that Foote spent last year with his hometown team, the Detroit Lions. And by all accounts, he was miserable there. Having spent his entire career with the Steelers, he had grown accustomed to being on a winning team and that was evidently his sole goal this offseason. Despite being wooed by the Cardinals and Redskins, Foote was big enough to admit forcing his release last year was a big mistake and return to the team that drafted him in 2002.
Equally big were the Steelers, who by bringing him back also signaled that they had made a mistake in releasing him. I wrote numerous times last year that it would’ve been nice to still have Foote on the roster and once again I’ve been proven correct. Our once steady inside linebacking corps sucked last year. James Farrior finally began showing his age, slowing noticeably especially when it came to coverage. Lawrence Timmons, a former first round pick, is fast and athletic but small and easily pushed around. He was terrible when it came to run defense.
Which is why Foote played in the base defense with Timmons only coming in during passing situations back in 2008. To be fair, Timmons played all of last year with ankle problems so I’m sure the Steelers are going to blame that for his failures. I’d imagine Timmons will go into next year as the starter with Foote waiting in the wings should he again prove not up to the task. At only 29 years old, Foote could also be groomed to replace Farrior at some point. The problem with that is Farrior is the guy who calls the defensive signals and makes sure everybody is in the proper alignment so if they want to replace him, Dick LeBeau will need to make sure somebody else is able to do that job.
According to football operations director Kevin Colbert, this marks the end of the Steelers free agency spending frenzy. Focus will now shift to the draft which is a little over a month away. While I would’ve liked to see a good quality offensive lineman brought in, overall I think these moves have made the team stronger and deeper than last year. Hopefully that translates to on-field improvement, as well.