Every year about this time, fans of every NFL franchise start to look ahead to the offseason, and the first event on everyone’s calendar is the start of NFL Free Agency. Websites like this one put out lists of the top players who will be available when the new league year begins and players hit the open market.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, free agency has been very hit-or-miss over the past few years. While they have hit on a few free agent pick ups, they have missed on more.
But not all strikeouts have been the Steelers’ fault.
You can never predict a player’s health, and this certainly was the case with Ladarius Green, and even Morgan Burnett. Sure, these players had issues with injuries prior to them signing with Pittsburgh, but so did Vance McDonald. After McDonald’s injury plagued 2017, he played in 15 games in 2018, proving players can shake off the injury prone designation.
Looking back throughout the Mike Tomlin/Kevin Colbert era, you can find some players who turned out to be tremendous additions to the team via free agency, and plenty others who were more of a bust than a bang.
With that said, it is imperative, more so this year than others, the Steelers at least get a couple doubles this year in free agency, sticking with the baseball analogy. Why not aim for a home run, or a triple? Because those type of players typically don’t even hit the free agent market, or they request a king’s ransom to sign.
Entering the 2019 offseason, the Steelers not only have some gaping holes on their roster, but some money with which to maneuver. Holes always exist, but the money doesn’t.
Thanks to Le’Veon Bell’s absence last year, the Steelers will have roughly $18 million dollars to play with in free agency, and that doesn’t take into account a likely new deal for Ben Roethlisberger, which should lower his cap hit this upcoming season, and the natural increase in the salary cap.
Regardless of money available, the Steelers will need to target some first wave free agents if they feel they are able to get them back to the promised land. Typically, the Steelers sit back, let other teams make waves on the first day of free agency, and then pounce on players as their asking price naturally drops. However, since their courting of Dont’a Hightower, the Steelers have stuck to the status quo with how they handle things in free agency.
I am not suggesting the Steelers turn into a team like the Washington Redskins who go out and pay top dollar for the biggest name on the free agent list, but to be more aggressive. If you can land just one player who can come in and play a position like cornerback or inside linebacker, and no, Jon Bostic is not a good example of the player I am talking about, it will make the 2019 NFL Draft process much more precise as the team needs will be narrowed down.
Plain and simple, this offseason will go a long way from proving whether the Steelers are actual contenders, or just pretenders in 2019. Sure, you could say that about every season, but with the likely dismissal of Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and the gaping holes at CB and ILB, the Steelers will need to make something happen. It isn’t impossible, but the Steelers need to win the gamble that is free agency — for once.