With very little wiggle room available, the Steelers have been able to make the best out of a difficult situation.
The salary cap situation for the Steelers has been well-documented over the past couple of months. With the team hampered down by such large contracts, it seemed as though the team wouldn’t be able to make any significant additions. However, general manager Kevin Colbert was able to utilize the few resources he had to in order to come out on top this free agency period.
With very little cap space, Colbert made the right decision to cut Anthony Chickillo and Mark Barron. While both have been capable players for the Steelers, their contracts were way too large for the type of production they were providing. By releasing them, the organization got much-needed relief which helped fill the hole left by the sudden retirement of Ramon Foster, as well as satisfying other needs on the roster.
The signing of Stefan Wisniewski was one of the steals of the offseason. For $2.25 million, the Steelers gained a very experienced, battle-tested guard who is more than capable of filling in for the departed Foster.
Wisniewski has played an important role for 2 out of the past 3 Super Bowl-winning teams. He has provided much-needed depth and versatility for both of those rosters. Wisniewski has the ability to play either guard or center. This versatility could come in to play, barring injury or if Maurkice Pouncey’s play continues to slip.
According to Pro Football Focus, Wisniewski graded out as the 16th best guard in football. To put that into perspective, fellow free agent Graham Glasgow graded as the 12th-best guard in football, only four spots ahead of Wisniewski, and got paid $44 million dollars by the Broncos. The Steelers got a bargain for one of the better offensive linemen in the National Football League.
However, Colbert didn’t stop there. He was also able to acquire arguably the Steelers top target of the offseason: Eric Ebron. The former 10th overall selection has cemented his status as one of the games most dangerous receiving tight ends.
Ebron showcased what he could do when given a talented quarterback – finishing the 2018 season with 66 catches, 750 yards, and 13 touchdowns. Ebron’s statistics took a step back this season due to the unexpected retirement of Andrew Luck. Despite the fact that Ebron’s numbers dropped, he became a better all-around tight end. According to PFF, Ebron significantly improved as a blocker finishing with a 67.4 run-blocking grade. Ebron had a total grade of 71.1, which was the highest of his career and was good for 16th at his position.
Not only does Ebron provide much-needed help on the offensive side of the ball, but the Steelers got him for a very reasonable deal. For $6 million per year, the Steelers got a potential Pro-Bowl tight end whose best days could be well ahead of him. In contrast, the Bears gave Jimmy Graham $8 million per year, who is clearly a shade of his former self.
While the Steelers free agency period has not been the flashiest, the organization has made extremely smart decisions with the resources they’ve had. All of the moves that have been made have certainly helped the roster and could pay off huge dividends next season.