As the age old story goes, you can expect three things in life: Death, Taxes, and the Pittsburgh Steelers not making a splash in free agency. Year in and year out the Steelers turn their backs toward the league’s yearly talent cycle. Instead, choosing to build their roster from the draft, minor free agents, and the occasional trade. Seriously, the Steelers are never tied to big ticket free agents and now we have some proof to back it up.
As the graphic clearly shows, since 2017 the Pittsburgh Steelers by far spent the least amount of money on outside free agents. The graphic also pretty clearly shows spending money does not equate to winning football games. The bulk of successful teams these past four seasons spend the least of money on outside free agents. On the flip side, the worst teams typically spend the most. With a winning percentage of roughly .680, the Steelers find themselves plotted where teams want to be.
Here’s a list of Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) the Steelers have brought in since 2017 (Non-cut players only):
2017 - Justin Hunter, Knile Davis, Coty Sensabaugh, Tyson Alualu, Daimion Stafford
2018 - Jon Bostic, Morgan Burnett, Nat Berhe
2019 - Steven Nelson, Donte Moncrief, Mark Barron
2020 - Derek Watt, Stefen Wisniewski, Eric Ebron
Aside from Steven Nelson, this is not exactly a list of impact players. Mostly one year band-aid type players with over 50% not even being on the team the following year. And, only Nelson, Watt, and Ebron are under contract with the Steelers today.
This chart also makes me want to criticize the Steelers spending over this span. The top teams in the league have spent somewhere between $80-$100 million dollars on outside free agents since 2017. The Steelers on the other hand are sitting closer to $50 million dollars allocated to outside players. That’s only about $13 million per year on these type of players, and about 50% less than the winningest team, the New Orleans Saints.
While drafting and developing your own talent is the recipe for success in the league, the Steelers are still too cheap, in my opinion. Sometimes the Steelers can be loyal to a fault, and instead of bringing in an upgrade to replacing an average player, they roll with what they already have on roster.
More than half of Steelers’ players under contract in 2020 will see their deal expire before the start of the 2022 league year. Factor in a salary cap that should skyrocket from new TV deals, and maybe the Steelers will buck the trend of not spending in free agency.
But what do you think? Should the Steelers spend more money on outside free agents? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.