The Steelers have been unusually active early in free agency this year and are not showing signs of slowing down.
When free agency began it would have been reasonable to expect the Steelers early offseason to be slow. There were not a lot of free agents from the Steelers, and the ones that were hitting the market were not necessarily stars. The needs were on defense and the draft seems to lean that way. The Steelers could have signed some players back and looked to the draft to fill holes.
But that was not to be. It started out simple enough with the Steelers locking up Ramon Foster, William Gay, Robert Golden, Greg Warren, and Darrius Heyward-Bey. But then things started to heat up.
Things got hot because of two reason. First, Heath Miller retired. Second, the Steelers lost some free agents. Heath Miller’s retirement left a big hole on the roster. It also freed up some money. The Steelers did not have much cap room, another reason you might have expected the offseason to go slow.
The Steelers replaced Heath Miller with Ladarius Green. This alters the Steelers offense in a big way. Green can outrun linebackers and out-muscle safeties. He provides a big new weapon for Ben and he and Jesse James give Haley the ability to play with two tight end sets more.
The Steelers lost Kelvin Beachum and Steve McLendon, leaving two pretty big holes. They also lost Antwon Blake, Terence Garvin, Jordan Todman and Sean Spence. They will probably also be losing Will Allen, Brandon Boykin, Michael Vick, Cam Thomas, and Bruce Gradkowski.
The Steelers have made gains in filling those holes. They signed offensive tackle Ryan Harris from the Broncos to compete with Alejandro Villanueva to be Beachum’s replacement.
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The Steelers have also replaced the linebacker depth they lost by acquiring Steve Johnson to a one year contract. He’ll add depth to ILB and also play special teams.
The offseason has also been eventful for an unfortunate reason. Martavis Bryant has been suspended for a year based on a failed drug test, the second failed test in two offseasons. The wide receiver position is still stacked but Bryant’s absence will be felt even if just by changing the offense to make up for it. It also suggests Green may have been Bryant’s replacement as much as Millers.
The Steelers offseason has been eventful but the Steelers are posturing as though they’re going to keep it up. The Steelers have grabbed headlines by flirting with some big names like Eric Weddle and Russell Okung but haven’t bitten on any of them. They have made some solid additions and continue to interview players despite having little money left.
The Steelers have recently spoken to a couple free agent offensive linemen. Josina Anderson of ESPN said they spoke to versatile guard Geoff Schwartz who also has some tackle experience. They also had a meeting with center Stefan Wisniewski according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. This might suggest something unfortunate about Pouncey’s health but I don’t want to make any assumptions.
The Steelers aren’t just talking to offensive linemen. They had a meeting with nose tackle Mike Martin of the Tennessee Titans. Martin is also a the type of versatile player the Steelers like to have.
It’s true the Steelers aren’t showing signs of losing free agent momentum, but they are running out of money. There’s presently about 2 million in cap space and let’s also keep in mind they have to sign the players they draft and the secondary may actually be worse at the moment than it was last season.
Mark Kaboly of TribLive.com quoted Kevin Colbert as saying of his approach toward this offseason, “The philosophy this offseason was, we tried to address whatever offensive needs we had through free agency because it still looks like it’s a defensive draft.”
It makes sense. So in light of everything we can probably expect the Steelers to maybe make another depth move or two before the draft. But definitely no big names. Green is going to be the biggest free agent addition. The Steelers may still be going 80 but it’s all momentum at this point. The foot is off the pedal because the gas is running out.
The Steelers can talk to as many players as they want but the money just isn’t there right now. There could be more coming though. They’ve asked Cortez Allen to take less money, and they’ll probably cut him if he doesn’t. But that doesn’t change a whole lot.
Expect the Steelers to make efforts to beef up the secondary and defensive line in the draft. They’ve been meeting several defensive backs and other positions of need. They’ll probably also get a linebacker, possibly a wide receiver and an offensive lineman too. But there’s only so many picks. If there’s any other starting caliber additions it probably won’t be until after the draft.
So the Steelers may not want to slow down, but they’re going to have to. Regardless, the Steelers are having an active offseason and the pieces are falling into place.