Rolando McClain could be a low-risk, reasonable-reward investment for the Steelers

Jamie Squire

The Ravens still hold McClain's rights, but their recent black-eyes (no pun intended) from a legal perspective may make giving McClain a shot at a return to the NFL too much of a liability. The Steelers have the scratch and the rep to pull it off.

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Without referring to professional football players as "trash," the Baltimore Ravens find themselves the contractual owners of the rights of troubled linebacker Rolando McClain. Considering nearly all of their recent news involves the words "Ravens," and "player" and "arrested," it would seem like a difficult time for Baltimore to take on a head case.

This is when the rest of the league assumes the Condor Formation, leans on their character rhetoric and mentions how they feel he's still a good person.

All of this may be true, but the fact is, any time an NFL team has an opportunity to sign an outstanding starter at league minimum, it takes more to say "no" than it does to say "yes."

Baltimore will likely sign ILB Daryl Smith back for at least next year, and 2013 second round draft pick Arthur Brown still waits in the wings. The team also brought back role player/special teams ace Albert McClellan, strongly indicating they'll have no desire to bring McCLain back.

Not after the embarrassment he caused the team last year, when he was arrested just 10 days after the team signed him as a free agent, then promptly retired from the league.

McClain wants to play this year, apparently, and while the Ravens would have the opportunity to keep him around through minicamp and training camp before being required to pay him anything substantial - thus blocking him from other teams - even having him on the roster may not be in the best interests of the team's now-soiled reputation.

A few incidents shouldn't defined a franchise, but in the instant-news era, that's exactly what it does. Because of that, McClain would become a liability, leading to the likely assumption he would be reinstated from the retirement list and released, making him a free agent.

Watch the Steelers assume the Condor Formation.

Pittsburgh is a franchise with a solid reputation for character, a firmly entrenched coaching staff and front office and a need to bolster some depth at the inside linebacker position. This isn't to say McClain starts from the minute he signs any hypothetical deal, but recent moves along the Steelers' roster affords them not just the salary cap space to give McClain a legit shot, but enough depth to think it wouldn't be a requirement for him to make the team, nor would it be a terrible idea to see if they could bolster the position a bit.

Vince Williams is still green, albeit not the deep shade he was last season. Sean Spence hasn't played at all. No objectively-minded evaluator could look at the Steelers' perceived depth chart at inside linebacker and think there's enough there to not make it a concern in the future.

But there's still enough talent there to think, worst case scenario, they could find a veteran before training camp to bolster that depth, only after the initial run through free agency and the completion of the 2014 NFL Draft.

So this really isn't a terrible idea. Give the decision its typical once-through in terms of character vouching, "He's made mistakes, we're going to give him a chance to be a part of this team, it's up to him," blah, blah, etc. Give him a cheap, short contract, let him earn more in the future. Maybe he helps immediately. If he freaks out and starts yelling at cops again, he gets cut, obviously. But give him a chance without any guarantees, he may pay off as a decent contributor to a rebuilding defense.

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