Fans should not expect Steelers to make major splash in free agency

General Manager Kevin Colbert of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
General Manager Kevin Colbert of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Apart from re-signing some of their own players, Steelers fans should not expect any major moves this year in free agency. 

With the start of the 2021 free agency frenzy upon us, it is always nice to think about all the free agents the Steelers may want to sign or re-sign, but that thought, as nice as it is, is just a thought.  The reality is something much different.  In fact, the reality is almost the antithesis of what fans may hope for this time of the NFL year.

I know I have mentioned this in previous discussions about free agency, but I think it’s important to reiterate. The Steelers have never been and probably will never be major ‘players’ in free agency.  My definition of a major ‘player’ is a team that, for lack of a better term, throws money at high-profile free agents.  What I would prefer to see us do is to re-sign all of our own pending free agents, but, as we know, that is not always possible.

While I will not wager a guess as to how many of our own pending free-agents we will lose to other teams who will undoubtedly make an offer that cannot be refused, the flip side to that is this: How many of our own pending free agents will re-sign with us for a ‘hometown’ discount because they either love the organization and/or they realize we have a really good team that can compete for another Lombardi Trophy?

For those of you who are on the side of signing ‘big name’ free agents, I don’t necessarily disagree with you.  I think there are times where signing a free agent to a hefty contract is warranted, but that would, inherently, mean that we were either unable to re-sign our own pending free agent who happens to play the same position or we did not do a great job in the draft and now we are in a position of having to potentially overpay for a player.

The Steelers would be best served if we were able to re-sign our own free agents

Yes, the Steelers have already made some moves ahead of free agency, but that is not the point of this particular discussion. The moves we have made have, for the most part, centered around re-signing our own free agents, which was not always the case.  For those of you who do not remember ‘Plan B’ free agency, consider yourself fortunate to have not lived through the utter despair that Steelers fans felt going into the offseason.

For those of you who did live through the aforementioned, I apologize for having to take a trip down memory lane, but I think it’s important for us to delve into the past to understand and appreciate the present.  If you search ‘Plan B’ free agency, you will get quite a few hits. Here it is from someone who lived it.

I wrote an article some time ago about this very thing, but that’s neither here nor there right at the moment.  ‘Plan B’ free agency was essentially the precursor to the current format of NFL Free Agency, albeit free agency has been steadily evolving.  Teams were allowed to protect a certain number of players; the players who were not protected were free agents.

Every year, Steelers fans knew we would lose our best free agents simply because we could not afford to re-sign them.  It was really as simple as that.  We knew we had to draft well as those younger, less expensive players would be our starters in due time.

Fast forward to the present.  If the splash you are looking for means that we offer a huge contract to a free agent who is not ours, I would argue that we have made major splashes by re-signing our own players, as it should be, in my opinion.

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So far, a number of notable players have already left, but the Steelers were able to retain Cameron Sutton and Zach Banner. Don’t be surprised if all we end up doing in free agency is to re-sign our own, and that would be fine by me.