It doesn’t matter how good an NFL team is, there is always a desire to add pieces in order to make it even better. As is often true with Steelers Nation, many fans are hoping for the Steelers to continue to add players through free agency even though it is already the month of June. But is this really the best interest for the team?
While the Steelers are never fully finished with adding players to their team even during the season, this a practice which may be better suited for the 2021 team. Should the Steelers be dabbling in the free agent market while there are still some names available, or are they better off waiting for prices to drop or for other needs to present themselves?
Here are three reasons why it may not be in the Steelers best interest to continue to look at add a player at this time and would be better off waiting until closer to the season.
It is the governing force behind everything NFL teams have to do. Is there actually salary cap space for the Steelers to sign another player? As we’ve learned so many times before, the salary cap is something which can often be manipulated in order to get deals done. For 2021, the Steelers still have some of these options to add more salary cap space, but they are not necessarily things the team would like to do or else they would have already done them.
So the Steelers continue to have options when it comes to the 2021 salary cap that they could use in order to have more money. As they stand now, the Steelers are a little shy of what they need to operate for 2021, especially if the NFL decides to keep 16 players on the practice squad.
Although the Steelers’ salary cap situation does not necessarily keep them from signing a player at this time, it does affect how many players they could sign. If the Steelers really only have the opportunity to add one more player, they have got to make sure it’s done right and in the right spot. This leads into the next reason…
The Steelers have several places where additional depth would be beneficial for 2021. The question is, which one is the biggest priority?
I don’t think this is a question the Steelers can answer at this time. Yes, OTAs could maybe give them some indication, but it’s still just football in shorts. When the Steelers get to training camp and into the preseason, they will get a much better indication as to where they stand depth-wise at various positions. Additionally, if there’s an injury that comes into play, they would be much better suited to be able to deal with it at that time with their limited resources rather than have already explained it all their options. For example, had the Steelers brought in another Safety last summer for depth, they may not have had the resources to trade for Avery Williamson to help with the injuries at the inside linebacker position.
For example, some Steelers fans are concerned with the depth at the cornerback position. Should Steelers be out checking the market right now to bring in an additional CB? If they do, what happens when both James Pierre and Justin Layne look to take their game to the next level in 2021? What if the Steelers’ UDFA corners show why they should have been selected in the 2021 draft and are players and Steelers really want to keep? Granted these things are not a guarantee by any means, but wouldn’t it be better to know this before having to make a decision? The last thing the Steelers want to do is to add another player only to find out what they already had was more than adequate and now no longer have the resources to add a player somewhere else where there is a deficiency.
While they are still a number of free agents out there on the market, many of them are waiting for their opportunity in order to maximize their salary for 2021. With the Steelers not looking to pay top dollar, they are much better off looking for help when the pool of players who are available explodes the beginning of September.
The NFL previously announced roster cut down dates for the 2021 season. With five players needing cut by the Tuesday after Week 1 of the preseason and another five following Week 2, the remaining 27 players will be released on August 31.
Looking at this, there will be more than 1,100 players who are currently on NFL rosters who will not be come September 1. If the Steelers are looking for other options, especially ones which won’t significantly hinder the salary cap, their options will be much greater at this time. Also, these players will have just given some recent tape during the 2021 preseason for the Steelers to better gauge their value and what they could bring to Pittsburgh.
Looking again at 2020, the Steelers did this to add to their depth at Safety. Rather than sign someone else in the offseason, they grabbed Sean Davis when he was released by the Washington Football Team. Davis cost minimally against the 2020 salary cap, and gave the Steelers some depth which they ultimately did not have to call on in a big way last year.
So there are three reasons why the Steelers would be just fine if they waited before spending any more of their limited salary cap on players for the 2021 season. Of course, the Steelers could turn around and sign someone at any moment. But if they don’t, the sky is not falling.