The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to be uncharacteristically active in free agency, signing former Denver Broncos left tackle Ryan Harris to a two year $4 million deal yesterday. Harris started all 16 games last season and is slated to take over as our starting LT with Kelvin Beachum exiled to obscurity down in Jacksonville. I can’t say I know much about Harris but anybody charged to protect the blind side of the human statue that was Peyton Manning should be decent. It’s not like any lineman can hold a block the fifteen seconds it sometimes takes Ben to throw the ball.
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.
Later today, Peyton Manning is expected to announce his retirement. The 2016 NFL season has certainly started with a bang. The league year actually officially begins Wednesday with the beginning of the annual free-for-all known as free agency. As usual, the Pittsburgh Steelers are poised to have another uneventful off-season.
You’ll see articles on other websites dreaming up a list of potential free agents the Steelers have approximately zero chance of going after. With very rare exceptions, “winning the off-season” through splashy signings isn’t the Steeler Way. They’ll do what they usually do and look at fringe players while waiting to pick through the leftovers sometime in July or August.
Been awhile, huh?
With roughly an hour to go before the official start of the 2015 NFL free agency period, I figured it was about time to check in with an update on our Pittsburgh Steelers. To say our team has some work to do would be an understatement. The offense was incredible last season while the defense, well, the defense needs nearly a complete overhaul. With brand new defensive coordinator Keith Butler set to take the reins this upcoming season, it would behoove the team to give the man some actual talent to work with.
Not surprisingly, the first major moves of the off-season revolve around the D. Veteran Brett Keisel was released yesterday, all but ensuring an end to his career in Black and Gold. While Da Beard was a solid contributor last year, he was once again lost to a season ending injury as his age make counting on him for a full season impossible. Keisel wants to continue playing and I’m sure he’ll find a home either with Pittsburgh West (Arizona) or Pittsburgh South (Tennessee) as we finally move on to rebuilding the defensive line.
On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to terms with former Colts wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey on a one-year deal. That now makes the Steelers a bit deeper at the wide receiver position. However, it does not necessarily make them any better.
The Pittsburgh Steelers made a big splash on Tuesday by signing free agent safety Mike Mitchell to a five-year, $25 million deal. Mitchell brings youth to a defense where the average age of the starters was 33 last year.
I give this signing an A if I have to grade it. Mitchell had a breakout year in 2013 on one of the NFL’s best defenses. He also came at a pretty good price for the Steelers.
The New England Patriots aren’t satisfied with stealing AFC Championship games from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now they’re out to steal our players. After cutting ties with Wes Welker earlier this off-season, the Fighting Belicheats have been looking everywhere for weapons to add to Tom Brady‘s arsenal. Evidently they found one in wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
New England signed Manny to one year $2.5 million offer sheet yesterday afternoon. Since Sanders is a restricted free agent, the Steelers now have five days to match their offer or else Sanders becomes Patriots’ property in exchange for their third round pick in the upcoming draft. Since the Steelers have already tendered him $1.3 million, they actually only need to offer another $1.2 million to keep him. Early word from ESPN No-Nothing Ed Werder is the Steelers are expected to match.
At this point, it seems like the Steelers are in a lose-lose situation either way.
If they don’t match, Antonio Brown will be the last member of Young Money left standing. While breaking up that group of underachieving punks isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does leave the team’s wide receiving corps dangerously thin. Subtract Manny and our current depth chart looks like this: AB and Jerricho Cotchery starting with Plaxico Burress playing the slot. Sure Sanders had his problems last season but that’s the kind of line-up nightmares are made of. If we lose Sanders, the Steelers will have to use one of their first two picks in the upcoming draft on a wide out.
If they do match, well, they still need to take a wide receiver. But before they can sign any of this year’s draft picks, they’ll have some work to do to get under the salary cap. According to ProFootballTalk, the Steelers are currently a measly $2.5 million under the cap. Giving Sanders another million plus means they’ll need to clear another chunk of space in order to sign their picks.
$2.5 million under the cap. Seriously, I can’t get over that number. Where the bloody blue hell is all their money going? Don’t say Ben because the Patriots have Tom Brady and they’re still a whopping $10 million under the cap. We haven’t signed a single name free agent. We let Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace walk away. We cut James Harrison and re-worked a bunch of other high priced contracts. I could see if this was a team coming off a Super Bowl victory but the Steelers got Tebow’d out of the playoffs two years ago and went 8-8 last year. Why are they paying a bunch of mediocre shitbums all of this money?
What the f*%k is this team doing?
One NFL agent has already been fired due to free agency incompetence. Another may soon join him.
Linebacker Elvis Dumervil was happily employed by the Denver Broncos, who were scheduled to pay him $12 million next season. After signing some name free agents (Wes Welker and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), the Broncos found themselves over the salary cap. Under NFL bylaws, after any new signing, a team has a window of 48 hours to get in compliance with the cap or they risk forfeiting a first or second round draft pick. Dumervil agreed to rework his contract to help Denver out but thanks some sort of fax machine shenanigans, the papers weren’t signed in time and the team was forced to release him.
Dumervil quickly became a hot commodity as no fewer than five teams were bidding for his services. The Pittsburgh Steelers were among his suitors as were the Baltimore Ravens. The Ratbirds ultimately won the Dumervil sweepstakes, signing him to a five year deal that will pay him $8.5 million this season although only $2.5 of it counts against the cap (the bulk of his first year salary comes in the form of a signing bonus). Why can’t supposed salary cap sooper-genius Omar Khan work out these kind of deals?
The addition of Dumervil is quite the coup for the Ravens, who have lost five defensive starters this off-season. At 29 years old, Dumervil is an accomplished pass rusher having posted 17, 9.5 and 11 sacks the past three years. Paired with Terrell Suggs, they should form one of the better OLB duos in the AFC.
When word broke of Dumervil signing with Baltimore, Steeler fans immediately went into sour grapes mode, pointing out Doom’s limited experience as a 3-4 OLB (he began his career as a 4-3 DE) and his so-so ability to stop the run. Anybody who doesn’t think Dumervil would’ve been a huge asset to the Steelers is completely insane. Had they signed him, he immediately would’ve been the team’s best pass rusher as he’s infinitely more talented than Jason Worilds and has grossly outperformed LaMarr Woodley the past few seasons. What’s more, at 29 years old, he’s got at least three or four more prime years left before age and injury start to catch up with him.
With Dumervil off the table, rumor has it the Steelers have turned their sights to former Colts DE Dwight Freeney. At this point, Freeney is nothing more than a poor man’s Dumervil. Sure he might come cheaper but in football as with smoked ham, you get what you pay for. Freeney is older (33), has a more worrisome injury history, and appears to be a horrible fit for our defense. Where Dumervil shifted from DE to OLB without missing a beat, Freeney moved to OLB last season and recorded a career-low 5 sacks. Freeney isn’t an upgrade over Dumervil, he’s not even an upgrade over the man he’s ostensibly replacing, James Harrison.
Ah, poor Deebo. The agent I mentioned who may soon find himself unemployed (if not naked in a gutter with dog bites and “BMF” tattood on his left butt cheek) is the assclown representing James Harrison. Harrison was scheduled to make $6.57 million this season but the Steelers asked him to take a 30% pay cut down to roughly $4.5 million. He balked thinking he could easily command his original salary on the open market. How sadly he was mistaken.
According to reports, the market for Harrison’s rapidly declining skills is tepid to say the least. In fact it’s so icy that Harrison’s agent has already started floating the idea that James would be open to returning to the Steelers, presumably for the salary he idiotically turned down in the first place. For their part, the Steelers have leaked word that they have no interest in bringing a grovelling Harrison back at any price. Ouch.
The thing is, yes, Harrison is in the twilight of his career. And yes, he was dumb for not agreeing to take the pay cut when it was offered. At the same time, Harrison was the team’s best pass rusher last season and until Woodley discovers the Stairmaster, would still be so heading into this one. Even with eroding skills, Harrison is a better option than either Jason Worilds or Dwight Freeney. Of course, there are still players left to be signed and the draft can change a lot of things so it’s not imperative the Steelers decide on the lesser of three evils. However, they better do something or risk falling even further behind their AFC North rivals.
There are thirty-two teams in the National Football League. According the Pittsburgh Steelers, there is but only one. At least, that’s the impression one sometimes gets from the moves they make. The Steelers have signed five free agents thus far, two played for them last year (Larry Foote and Plaxico Burress) and another two were longtime Steelers who played elsewhere in recent years (William Gay and the recently signed Matt Spaeth).
The only non-Steeler to be signed was back-up quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who happens to be a Pittsburgh native. And we laugh about the Cardinals being Steel City-centric…
Anyway, the return of Spaeth gives the Steelers a little insurance at the tight end position going into camp. Heath Miller tore his knee to hell in last season’s finale so it’s anybody’s guess if he’ll be ready by camp or what they can realistically expect out of him in 2013. Heath’s a man’s man and not a lazy fatass like LaMarr Woodley so I’m sure he’ll do everything he can to come back but when your rip every ligament in your knee that ends with CL, it’s best not to set exceptions too high.
Heath is that rare talent that excels at both catching passes and blocking. The Steelers have two tight ends currently on the roster who can conceivably pick up the slack catching the ball. Unfortunately, neither David Paulsen nor Leonard Pope is considered much of a blocker. Some website called Pro Football Focus, which tries to ruin football with a bunch of useless made-up stats like those sabrematrician dorks ruined baseball, claims their analysis “proves” Spaeth was the best blocking TE in football last season. As somebody who’s actually watched him play, that notion is laughable even though he is a certainly an upgrade over both our current TEs in the trenches.