The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team whose roster is practically set for the 2017 regular season. Barring injury, there are very few position battles up for grabs as the offseason winds down and training camp picks up later this summer. While the roster is seemingly in place, it doesn’t mean everything is cool and calm on the home front. In fact, the Steelers will have some work to do at the negotiations table this offseason with a trio of players.
Let’s examine the situations:
Le’Veon Bell - RB - Franchise Tagged
Le’Veon Bell hasn’t signed his franchise tag yet, in hopes of getting a long-term contract done, and he has until July 15th to do so. If he doesn’t sign on the dotted line, he will be playing on a one-year, $12.1 million dollar contract. It would make him the highest paid running back in the league, but he wants that security of a long-term contract.
The Steelers, who also drafted James Conner in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL Draft, have publicly said they want Bell to play for the Steelers for years to come, but at what cost? The team has their work cut out for them, and depending on if Bell shows for minicamp, it could mean a long drawn out battle until the two sides come to an agreement on something.
Priority: VERY HIGH
Stephon Tuitt - DL - Entering 4th year
Tuitt has been rock solid for the Steelers opposite Cam Heyward, and he is about to hit a major pay day. The question remains, “will it be with the Steelers?”
If Tuitt and the Steelers can’t come to terms on a new contract, or an extension, the former Notre Dame product would be set to hit the free agent market in 2018. Not an ideal situation for the Steelers. The team has stated they want to keep Tuitt, and Tuitt would love to stay with the Steelers.
“I would love it here,” he told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s a blessing if they see me being here for the long term. I love the organization. We were a game away from doing something.”
Tuitt has turned into a very important part of the Steelers’ defense, and signing him prior to the 2017 season, like the Steelers typically do, will be key.
Priority: VERY HIGH
Alejandro Villanueva - OT - Exclusive Rights Free Agent
You feel bad for Villanueva. The man’s story to get to the NFL is straight from the silver screen, and yet here is looking at potentially earning roughly $613 thousand dollars this year as a starting left tackle in the NFL.
Villanueva wants a new contract, and the Steelers would like to re-sign him, but if they can’t come to terms on a deal the man they call “Big Al” might be out of luck. Villanueva could sit out, but that doesn’t seem to be in his make up. This may be the most difficult signing for the Steelers, as Villanueva likely would want starting left tackle money, but the team has to weigh their options, especially with Jerald Hawkins waiting in the proverbial wings.