Steelers Brilliantly Quiet Offseason Secures the Future


Many Steelers fans, including myself were fairly frustrated with the inactivity this offseason. In retrospect, considering the future, this was the right move. It’s the right move because we have plenty of talent and not much cap space. On the market the Steelers were silent but in house there was and will be a ton of cap and contract work.

We had several needs, particularly on defense. I’m sure you’re all aware of that though. But having a fairly successful draft has at least alleviated some of that. The lack of free agent acquisitions were the most frustrating thing for many, but having left the moment that was the offseason, we can view the past and the future as well.

Offseason Past

Kevin Colbert used to be cold blooded. Alan Faneca, Joey Porter, and several other vets who were mainstays in Pittsburgh were cut while they still had some years in the tank. This helped the Steelers keep the cap down and allowed younger players to take their spot in the lineup.

Eventually, when the Steelers started winning Super Bowls, Colbert started keeping players around. There was a conscious effort to keep the Super Bowl team together. After Cowher left, Tomlin came and kept a lot of the assistant coaches and adapted to the how the Steelers were. He was a different coach however.

After losing the big one in 2010, Colbert started cleaning house. Players like Hampton, or Farrior were dropped, and we’ve been trimming the Super Bowl team ever since. Five years later, all that remains is Ben, Heath, and Harrison.

Some players stayed on until they couldn’t stay on any longer though. They were paid way more than the quality of their play warranted. Yes, even Troy. Because of bloated legacy contracts young players like Keenan Lewis were allowed to walk.

A couple million each year though, with cuts and extensions, and not without sacrifices, the Steelers have been gradually remedying that situation.

Offseason Present

Between Allen, Gilbert, Brown, and a few others the Steelers have been making efforts to keep young talent. Focus has shifted from letting great players play their golden years in the black and gold to having great players play here throughout their prime.

This has been a shrewd technique cap wise. Often, as with Brown and Beachum for example, they get them in that contract before their potential is reached and get a real bargain out of the deal. Players like Bell or Bryant have or will see their productivity out-pace their rookie contracts.

Notice a lot of those names were not on defense however. That is where the temptation to use some of that freed up salary cap space had Steeler fans wanting to bring in a few new faces. The Steelers declined to do that.

It was not just talent we lacked on defense, and even in terms of depth on offense outside of WR, but just numbers. Prior to the draft the Steelers were not really two deep at multiple positions at every level of the defense (CB, DE, OLB). A nice draft that was about half need and half best available at least solved that numbers problem and helped relieve some of the anxiety in the Steeler nation.

Offseason Yet to Come

Here’s why taking the offseason off for the front office was a great move for the future: We’ve got loads of young talent. That young talent is going to need contracts. The Steelers have some real superstars on the offensive side of the ball, and suddenly a lot of potential on the defensive side. If that potential is reached, it’s going to want to get paid.

As I mentioned, Brown outplayed his contract. He’ll need a pay day. Next year Beachum is going to need a pay day too, having made the unlikely (given his physical make up) step to being a very good left tackle. Ramon Foster and Cam Heyward are going to need a new contract next year, likely for more money. Steve McClendon will need resigned too.

Antwon Blake, Will Johnson, Robert Golden, Brad Wing, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Bruce Gradkowski, William Gay, Greg Warrenand Will Allen are all going to need new contracts. Sure some will be allowed to walk, Hey-Bey, Allen, Cam Thomas and Mike Adams almost certainly, but maybe even Blake or Foster.

But plenty are going to stay, and it’s because they’ve earned it, and along with it more money. There’s many more that could get hot this season whose contracts are up next year like a Ross Ventrone or Chris Hubbard, or someone with a high upside like Sean Spence.

We’re not out of the woods yet, 2017 isn’t much better. Le’Veon Bell is going to need a pretty big pay day soon. David DeCastro is going to need a bigger contract too. Jarvis Jones could have a break out year and Shamarko Thomas might really excel going safety full time now. The Steelers are being proactive though as they’re active with extensions and restructures like Timmons and we all know about Ben’s contract.

I don’t expect to see another Keenan Lewis situation where we have to let a good young player walk. Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace met the same fate. Jason Worilds too was not affordable so we had to give him the transition tag out of desperation.

I expect to see more stories like Ben, Gilbert, Pouncey, or Moats in the coming years where contributors with years left get kept. That’s going to be possible, in light of the 8 figures in salary cap space we currently have, because the Steelers spent the whole offseason making fans mad by not signing anyone.

And seriously, tell me one free agent this year you’d rather have than Le’Veon Bell for his whole career.

Next: Steelers OC Todd Haley Focused on Red Zone in 2015

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