With the Steelers being so active this offseason with other team’s free agents it’s been easy to forget about our own. Let’s get an update.
The Steelers have started this offseason with a bang. Sure, by a team like Miami’s standards this has not been big, but who wants to be Miami lately anyway? The Steelers rank 26th in free agent spending at the moment, but for the Steelers that’s a big start. So it might be useful, rather than to dwell on who will play for the Steelers next year, to reassess where the free agents who played for the Steelers last year are.
Here they are.
William Gay, CB – As the best corner on the team for several years now Gay was picked up by the Steelers pretty quickly. They’ve begun making investments in the secondary but there’s far too much uncertainty to not have Gay. He’s getting older but given the situation in the secondary the Steelers are still better off with him.
Robert Golden, S – Golden has been a solid special teams contributor for a few years now. He was the special teams captain in fact. Last year he got some starts at safety and he was actually pretty serviceable. I think many of us had written him off as a special teams specialist, albeit a good one. He’s not likely the intended starting safety next year but he’s got experience, upside, and is an asset on two phases of the game.
Ramon Foster, G – Both he and Beachum were free agents this year. The Steelers could really only afford one. It was Foster. Many think of Pouncey as the first piece to the currently great Steelers offensive line but it was actually Foster who was here first. The big guard was undrafted but he worked his way into the starting lineup and looks to be settled in until retirement. He’s a good guard and a locker room leader.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR – Hey-Bey is a great guy to have on the team. He’s got plenty of experience and he’s a great athlete. The biggest thing he brings to the table is his attitude. They guy does not need the money and he’s got good reason to be fed up with the NFL. But he’s out there playing special teams and doing whatever needs done. The guy loves football.
Greg Warren, LS – Reliable long snapper for years. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. And he’s one of three players remaining from the Steelers last Super Bowl team.
Will Johnson, FB – Johnson was a good fullback in a good running game. He also had the added dimension of catching the odd pass here and there. The emergence of Roosevelt Nix however made him expendable.
New Team: New York Giants
Steve McLendon, NT – McLendon is probably the biggest loss this offseason. Beachum might be a better player overall but McLendon has no obvious replacement. He wasn’t the best nose tackle in the league but he got better, and bigger every year. There’s not an obvious way to make up for his absence and if they don’t it will be felt.
New Team: New York Jets
Kelvin Beachum, T – Beachum was the biggest bargain in football for many years. He was one of the best left tackles and he’ll be missed. What made him expendable though was, besides how much me he wanted, or deserved, the emergence of Alejandro Villanueva. Beachum was a great player but the circumstances just weren’t right. Ryan Harris was signed to also help replace Beachum.
New Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Sean Spence, ILB – Spence was a good back up ILB for the couple of years he got to do it for us. He started multiple games and was a well rounded player. He also was a special teams asset with his athletic ability. There’s also the element of the Steelers sticking by him through a terrible knee injury and him putting in the effort and getting back on the field that makes this a bummer. But it was time.
New Team: Tennessee Titans
Antwon Blake, CB – Blake was kind of a toss up. Like the Beachum/Foster situation the Steelers would likely only be able to keep one based on money and other concerns. Blake may have been the better choice just from being young and the coaches certainly liked him. That being said, many a Steeler fan has been frustrated by Blake’s play. It’s best to upgrade at the position right now.
New Team: Tennessee Titans
Jordan Todman, RB – Todman did some good running when Williams went out with an injury. I don’t think anyone expected much from he and Toussaint but they delivered. But do the Steelers need 4 half backs on the roster? Probably not.
New Team: Indianapols Colts
Brandon Boykin, CB – This might be the only player who probably would have refused to come back even if asked. Boykin was traded to Pittsburgh and many thought he’d be starting, or playing. This was not to be. Boykin only saw brief stints where he played arguably better than some others. It was a weird situation that remains a mystery. The mystery may not be solved but it’s no longer relevant.
New Team: Carolina Panthers
Terence Garvin, ILB – Garvin was a special teams standout for a couple years now. He never really played much at linebacker but the Steelers were very deep at ILB during his time. He’s a good special teams player and an asset to the team but it just wasn’t in the cards. Steve Johnson was signed to replace Garvin and Spence.
New Team: Washington Redskins
Cam Thomas, DT – Thomas had a rough first year with the Steelers and became one of those players that Steelers fans love to get mad at. His second year he stepped up and played better despite stepping down and playing less. His versatility was his biggest asset but the addition of Ricardo Mathews, another versatile defensive lineman from San Diego, makes Thomas expendable.
Bruce Gradkowski, QB – Gradkowski offers one main thing as a backup QB: he doesn’t panic. It sounds small but it’s the most important thing for a backup QB. His stats aren’t good but he had good enough poise and confidence, he can improvise well too. The Steelers will likely see if they can get anything in the draft, maybe even sign a different QB. But there’s a legit, if small, chance Bruce will be back. He does know the playbook.
Will Allen, S – Allen was an above average backup safety in his prime. He’s not in his prime and he’s be the starter. This is how far the Steelers secondary has fallen, Gay and Allen were backups, now in their mid 30s they’re the best in the secondary. He played well last year but slowed down and started to get injured. The Steelers want to move on but if the draft doesn’t go their way they might not have that option.
Michael Vick, QB – I guess in theory this made sense but in practice it was painful to watch. There’s some fundamental disconnect between Vick and the Steelers offense. I don’t know whose fault it is but I know whose problem it’s not anymore.