That escalated quickly…
The first day of the 2016 NFL season came with an unprecedented frenzy of free agent activity. Surprisingly enough, the Pittsburgh Steelers even got in on some of the action. They didn’t make a splashy move involving a headline name but as we saw last season with DeAngelo Williams, sometimes it’s the smaller under the radar moves that provide the biggest dividends. Also seems like their salary cap situation is a tad better than we expected.
First, though, the team re-signed a couple of their own free agents. Cornerback William Gay signed a three year deal after starting all 16 games last season. He’s not a great corner but he’s steady with plenty of veteran smarts. He’s starting to remind me of Bryant McFadden, who the Steelers tried to replace year after year yet kept finding himself right back in the starting line-up when one overhyped draft pick after the other flamed out.
Left guard Ramon Foster also received a new three year deal, which comes as a bit of a surprise. I thought there would be more demand for a quality left guard who started every game last year for a very good offensive line. Signing this quickly probably means Foster left money on the table to stay with the team he’s been with since 2009. RG David DeCastro has blossomed into the beast we expected when taken in the first round but Foster does a solid job on the left side and this will allow the continuity along the line to stay intact.
The Steelers big move yesterday – literally and figuratively – was the signing of former San Diego Chargers tight end Ladarius Green. With Heath Miller‘s retirement, the Steelers were in the market for a pass catching tight end and the 6’6 Green certainly fits the bill. He’s been buried behind future HoFer Antonio Gates since being drafted in the fourth round in 2012 but shown impressive flashes of ability when given a chance. Last year he started 13 games due to Gates being suspended or injured and caught 37 balls for 429 yards and 4 TDs.
I imagine those numbers will go nowhere but up once Todd Haley gets him into camp and Ben Roethlisberger begins to build a rapport with him. Green didn’t come cheap, signing a four year $20 million deal with a $4.5 million signing bonus. With him and second year man Jesse James around, it does seemingly remove the need for Kevin Colbert to hunt for a TE of the future in the draft. Of course, even when Heath was healthy and in his prime Colbert took a tight end every year so I’m sure he’ll sneak one in somewhere around round six or seven.
Offense was the Black and Gold’s strength last year and yesterday ensured it would continue to be next season. In fact, Green might even constitute something of an upgrade over Heath. The defense continues to be worrisome with Gay being the most consistent starter when he’d be a nickel for a lot of other playoff teams. I would like to see the Steelers pick up at least one more veteran corner rather than hope the secondary gets fixed by some combination of young guys blossoming and the draft. After the insane spending frenzy on Day One, they’re certainly in position for another strategic acquisition that ends up paying off over the long haul.