Happy Monday Steeler Nation! Hope your weekends were enjoyable and that you've had a chance to peruse some of the many posts published over the weekend here on BTSC. Let's start the new week with another breakdown of a Pittsburgh Steeler player whose contract expired after the 2010 season. Time to turn our attention back to the tackle position where the situation is as complicated as any on the roster. Let's try to work our way through it though with a discussion on reserve left tackle, Jonathan Scott.
2010 Salary: $545,000
The back story: Scott joined the Steelers via free agency at about this time last year. He, along with new offensive line coach Sean Kugler, arrived from Buffalo where the two had spent the 2009 season working together. Scott was thrust into the spotlight this past season when left tackle Max Starks was lost for the season. Scott would start the final nine games of the season, as well as all three playoff games for the Steelers. Scott gave up five sacks and was penalized nine times for 70 yards. Not outstanding, but not terrible numbers for a reserve filling in mid-season at one of the game's tougher positions. As the season progressed, and in the playoffs in particular, Scott elevated his game several levels. Against the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game, Scott was great protecting Ben Roethlisberger's blind side. Same goes for his Super Bowl performance. By season's end, Scott's improvement was one of the primary reasons why the Steelers season didn't fall apart in the wake of losing their second starting tackle for the year.
What I'd do:I might walk somewhat alone on this one, but I absolutely think Scott should be a part of the Steelers plans for 2011. And perhaps even a big part of the plan. Now, more so than at any other position, it's hard to predict the future of any one tackle without commenting on the other guys on the depth chart, not to mention what path the Steelers go down in April's Draft. It's all too complicated and interconnected to try to sort through here, but basically I think it would be a huge mistake to not retain Scott for the 2011 season. Why? Well, you're going to be able to re-sign the guy for fairly cheap, and you know with absolute certainty that he can play at a high level on short notice at LT.
Is Scott going to make multiple Pro Bowls and anchor an offensive line? No, no he's not. But competent LTs don't grow on trees and the Steelers know what they have in Scott at this point. And quite frankly, I'm not sure the drop-off between him and Max Starks is all that pronounced. Starks may have the edge in run blocking, but I don't see that much of a difference in their pass blocking ability.
The real difference between the two is how expensive they are. Starks makes about 1300% more than Scott, and quite frankly he's nowhere near that much better ability-wise. So, if the Steelers are able to draft a tackle with one of their top two picks -- a guy they believe will be a future starter in a year or two's time, then I'd personally think it would be wise to cut Starks and let Scott and the rookie battle it out in Latrobe. If the rookie doesn't look ready, then Scott plays. There's just too much money to be saved in my personal estimation to keep Starks around if the plan is to draft a bigtime left tackle this April.
Now, if the Steelers aren't able to land a top prospect at LT in this year's draft, then it makes less sense to release or trade Starks. He could play the '11 season with Scott backing him up, while the Steelers wait another year to try to find Starks' long-term replacement via the draft or free agency.
Only time will tell what exactly plays out, but there's absolutely no question in my mind that the Steelers should and will re-sign Jonathan Scott. Depending on the new CBA, Scott might be restricted or an unrestricted free agent. But let's assume that he'll be restricted meaning the Steelers should be able to get him signed to a one-year, $900k or so type of deal.
Previous Free Agent Breakdowns: