The Pittsburgh Steelers have cleared a bunch of cash the past couple weeks, mix in some very team friendly retentions and you would think the franchise would have splurged a little on the open market. I’m not talking about $6 million dollar a year players either. In recent years, the Steelers would plug up their roster with second tier free agents before they got to the NFL Draft to avoid reaching on players based on positional need. In 2021 the Steelers have not done any of this. Sure, they brought in Joe Haeg and Miles Killebrew, but jumbo tight end and special teamer was never really a need.
I’m talking specifically about the core holes on this roster. Center, corner, running back, second tight end, back up outside linebacker, and inside linebacker (starter or depth). In a usual year this team would've brought in a number of starting capable players, but in this unusual season they’ve sat on their hands and are waiting. I have a couple theories as to why.
No. 1 and most likely scenario, the Steelers are waiting on the secondary free agent market to completely bottom out. With far less money across the league, the secondary free agent market may be forced to play on veteran minimum deals just to remain in the NFL. The Steelers could be able to snatch up a plethora of starters for less than $4 million total dollars.
No. 2, the Steelers want to maximize their 2022 compensatory selections. Right now the Steelers are in line for a 3rd round pick for Bud Dupree and (possibly) two 5th round picks for the loss of Mike Hilton and Matt Feiler (Alualu re-signing with the Steelers complicates things). If Alejandro Villanueva and James Conner are able to score themselves deals on the open market the Steelers could see a maximized 4 compensatory selections for next year’s draft. By waiting until the end of the UFA period (May 3rd) the Steelers would not affect the compensatory formula by signing players after the date.
No. 3, the Steelers are okay with what they already have and are ok with leaning on rookies early. Perhaps there's something we don’t know about B.J. Finney, Cameron Sutton, Kevin Rader, and Benny Snell Jr. Maybe the Steelers are a lot higher on some of those guys than we are. As for rookies, it would be un-Steelers like, but maybe they’ve come to grips with big rookie involvement in the 2021 season.
And lastly, No. 4, The Steelers can't afford to spend to the salary cap. COVID-19 has affected businesses across the globe. Perhaps the Rooney’s just aren't able to foot the entire bill for the 2021 season until they know they can rely on ticket sales. Other pro sports teams have had to deal with this situation where the owners tell the Generals Managers they can't spend to the cap. Maybe that's going on in Pittsburgh.
But what do you think? Why haven't the Steelers signed more unrestricted free agent yet? Could be a combination of the thoughts above? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.