Many self-styled experts expressed surprise that Willie Colon left three million dollars on the table to sign with his beloved Steelers. He could have signed with the Bears and been paid a cool three million more over the length of a five year contract.
Of course, long term contracts aren't always what they seem to be, and money in the final years is often funny money, subject to all kinds of eventualities and often not guaranteed. But still, there's no question that Willie left a lot of money on the table to stay with the Black and Gold.
The Hometown Discount is a reality in Pittsburgh, and is one of the topics covered in an article this poster wrote for this year's Steelers Annual, published by Maple Street Press. The article quotes NFL superagent Ralph Cindrich, who represents James Farrior and a number of other top NFL stars. Here is a portion of the article, written last month, and appearing soon on news stands in Steeler Country....
“Without question, players prefer to play in Pittsburgh,” observes Cindrich. “Sometimes they’ll look for bigger money, but they’ll probably play more, play longer, win more, and enjoy the game more because of the organization.”
Cindrich, recalls that one of his clients, James Farrior, had hoped to sign a deal before the final year of his previous contract.
“They said they couldn’t do it. He said no problem. After the season, they gave him a deal.”
Is there a hometown discount? Can the Steelers actually sign players for less?
“No doubt that’s the case,” says Cindrich. “When you look at it, the after tax dollars, cost of living, there’s no comparison. It’s silly when a guy wants to leave this organization.”
Of course, pro football is a tough business, and there are times when players - even stars - are let go, often for salary cap reasons. Those decisions are among the most difficult a team must make. Players on successful teams are the most desirable free agents, and yet the Steelers have done far better than most teams in making these difficult decisions. Few players leave on bad terms and most reconcile and are welcomed back. Some are welcomed back before they retire, which speaks volumes.
The article goes into the myriad of reasons why Pittsburgh is widely considered to be the primo place to work in the NFL, and how the organization and the values set down by the Chief continue today.
It deals with how there are three major components to all this........1) the Steeler organization and front office, 2) the Steeler players and alumni, and 3) the surrounding community and Steeler Nation.
Ralph Cindrich says his clients and the Steeler players he knows all consider Pittsburgh the best place in the league to work, adding there isn't even a close second.
What we have seen with the signings of Ike Taylor, Willie Colon, and the other offensive linemen is vindication of the Rooney Way. These guys eat in the same cafeteria line with Art (and Dan) Rooney, are treated with respect, and are part of something much bigger than themselves. They have been through a time of great uncertainty during the lockout, and want to get back to their football family.
Steeler players are coveted around the league. They are known as winners and team players. In free agent bidding, they often command a premium. Winners often do. Hell, there's even a Home for Old Steelers. It's in Arizona.
But, as we have seen in the past three days, talk of loyalty and Hometown Discounts is much more than talk.
Top quality free agents have the freedom to choose their employer. That's a freedom many of us can only dream of. We all know that sometimes it's better to work for less money in a place where you are happy, rather than risk that happiness for more money by working somewhere else.
Up to now, we were never able to put a number to it.
Willie Colon just did.
Welcome back, Willie. We missed you last year.
Now just stay on sides until the play starts.