It’s been a week since the NFL’s unrestricted free-agency period started, and if you’re a Steelers fan, you’re likely dissatisfied. If that feels familiar to you, it’s because it’s probably been your state of being for the past 10 years. Why? Because you’re a Steelers fan who hasn’t learned what this time of year means for your expectations.
I kid...or am I being serious?
Anyway, here are 15 things I’ve learned from the Steelers’ first week of free agency:
- The Steelers were pretty damn serious about dealing with their cap issues this time, issues that were made more problematic by years of kicking the can down the road in the form of restructures and extensions. Some examples: They got quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to take a pay-cut; they cut Vince Williams; they did the same to Steven Nelson on Tuesday.
- I personally think Nelson forced the Steelers to cut him. I believe they asked him to negotiate an extension as a means to create some cap space, and Nelson took this as an opportunity to try and get paid like one of the top corners in the NFL. The Steelers, being the Steelers and all, likely balked at such a notion and are now willing to play 2021 without Nelson as one of their starting corners.
- Do you know how I know the Steelers are the Steelers? Matt Feiler, a 28-year old versatile offensive lineman with 40 career starts, signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Chargers at the start of free agency. Undeterred, Pittsburgh waited a few days and signed Joe Haeg, a 27-year old versatile offensive lineman with 38-career starts, to a two-year, $4.6 million deal. I’m not saying Haeg is on the same level as Feiler and will step right in and start for Pittsburgh at tackle or guard—he could simply be a depth piece. But would it surprise you if he wound up doing so and did pretty well? Me either.
- Lots of “comfort wine” was consumed during the first few hours and days of free agency when the Steelers were mostly doing nothing but allowing players to walk away—at least according to lots of folks I follow on Twitter.
- Many fans wanted the Steelers to simultaneously deal with their cap issues and also make a mega-splash in free agency and/or keep all of their own free agents. That tells me two things: One: People are really bad at math. Two: Those folks on Twitter were likely drinking “comfort tequila.”
- Some fans are okay with the Steelers signing a free-agent offensive lineman to a contract worth approximately a billion dollars (with incentives, of course), but they’re not fine with them selecting one in the first round of the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.
- As Bryan Anthony Davis and I co-hosted the latest episode of the Steelers Hangover and did an exercise where we tried to determine which position the Steelers would target with their first-round pick based on their free-agent activity, we discovered that they could go in any number of directions—offensive tackle, center, cornerback, running back, inside linebacker, etc. It’s all on the table.
- However, I still think quarterback is off the table, that is unless the Steelers are perfectly fine with Alabama’s Mac Jones being the last dish left on the table—and even then, they might have to go buy a longer table.
- The Steelers were still able to surprise me by re-signing receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to a one-year deal worth $8 million.
- “Voided years” is now one of the new ways the Steelers are dealing with their cap issues.
- It’s actually possible to mock a player for having to settle for a contract worth “only” $8 million—at least according to Twitter, Facebook and radio talk show hosts.
- Ravens fans seemed to be super-excited about the possibility of landing Smith-Schuster, that is until he re-signed with Pittsburgh. After that, they were super-relieved that they didn’t wind up with a brand-furthering possession receiver.
- It’s impossible to mention Smith-Schuster’s name without also bringing up his social media activity—regardless of whether you approve or disapprove of it. Pro-social media person using social media to talk about JuJu: “I think he’s a good receiver. I just wish people would stop worrying so much about the kid’s social media activity.” Anti-social media person using social media to talk about JuJu (most likely during work hours): “I have nothing against the kid. I think he’s a good receiver, but I just wish he would knock off the social media garbage and realize that football is his job.”
- No Steelers fan seems to grasp the irony of always referring to Smith-Schuster as a kid while also referencing how damn active he is on social media.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster is the most polarizing thing to come to Pittsburgh since bike lanes.
There you have it. Fifteen things I’ve learned from the Steelers’ first week of free agency.