Steelers can’t afford to repeat the mistakes of the past in free agency

The Steelers have limited funds to work within this closing Super Bowl window. Here’s why they can’t afford to repeat the mistakes of the past in free agency.

The Steelers aren’t known for making big splashes in free agency, and the 2019 offseason was no exception. Though they were able to strike gold on Steven Nelson this past offseason, Pittsburgh also made a couple of bad investments.

Mark Barron turned out to be a liability in coverage, and the 30-year old linebacker is due $8.1 million this season. Because of this, he is a likely candidate to be cut after just one season. Even worse was the deal for wide receiver, Donte Moncrief. The veteran wideout was cut after just 8 weeks on the Steelers roster and turned out to be one of the worst free-agent signings in Pittsburgh’s storied history.

Recently, Steelers President Art Rooney II made a statement that his team could use some offensive playmakers. Here’s what he had to say, according to Steelers.com:

“We are in the process now of preparing for free agency. The new league year starts on March 18. There is nothing we can do between now and then other than prepare for it. We’ll be looking for opportunities if we can to add a player we think can help us, whether it’s a wide receiver or running back. I am not sure about quarterback, whether we’ll have an opportunity to sign anybody. I think we are pretty comfortable with the people we have on the roster right now in terms of Ben and Mason [Rudolph] and I think we will have Duck [Devlin Hodges] and Paxton Lynch participating and competing in camp and things like that this year.”

Rooney claims to be comfortable with Pittsburgh’s quarterback situation moving forward (although I’m not sure if that is the right call considering what we saw from the backups last year). However, he hinted that the Steelers may be interested in adding a running back or receiver this offseason.

If Pittsburgh does elect to go this route, they can ill-afford to repeat the mistakes they have made in the past. Instead of going out and getting high-profile free agents, the Steelers have been trying to get by with players who they aren’t exactly about to get into bidding wars for. But is this the best strategy?

Pittsburgh grabs two players last year who they thought could come in and start for them in Moncrief and Barron. However, despite their unreasonably high salaries, Barron served best in a backup role, and Moncrief didn’t even prove good enough to remain on the roster. Moncrief signed a 2-year, $9 million deal with the Steelers last offseason. With the price tag Pittsburgh paid for these two combined, they could have landed a player like Tyrann Mathieu.

Signing Steven Nelson was a rare free-agent success story for the Steelers under Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert. But most of the other signings in between have proven to be a waste of money. There are a number of respectable running backs and receivers who could hit the market this offseason. If the Steelers can find a way to create cap space, it would be much better to go after one good player than to split up the money and try to land both a running back and receiver.

Next: Could Greg Olsen be a stopgap tight end for the Steelers?

Paying good money to players like Mark Barron or Donte Moncrief isn’t the way to go in free agency. The Steelers need to change their philosophy before backup-quality players get them into financial trouble yet again.