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So what if the Steelers aren’t major players in free agency?

The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t been major players in free-agency? I say to you: So what?

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I just got done reading the BTSC article about free-agent Dont’a Hightower, the ex (or future) Patriots linebacker, who’s planning a visit to the Steelers.

After reading the article, I quickly jumped to the comments section where I found three or four posts (or maybe more, I gave up) explaining all of the maneuvering (contract restructuring) Pittsburgh would have to do in-order to meet Hightower’s reported demands of $10-13 million a year (“If the Steelers restructure Cam Heyward, David DeCastro, Antonio Brown and un-retire Mean Joe’s number, they can get this done.”) and thought, “Why are you doing this to yourself?” (Disclaimer: if Hightower signs with the Steelers before this article is published, you can begin the rock throwing now.)

Really, why do you do this to yourself? Every year, I wake up at the dawn of unrestricted free-agency and read Internet comments about how that day is like Christmas morning, and I’m like, “Yeah, if you’re a kid during The Depression, and your mom and dad can only afford to put onions in your stockings, which are really just socks with holes in them because you’re just so gosh darn poor.”

In the Steelers’ case, they’re obviously far from poor, they’re just poor in a free-agent sense, meaning they never have so much salary cap room that they could acquire Brock Osweiler and his entire salary just for fun (and a second round pick).

Anyway, I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the start of NFL free-agency every March is never like Christmas morning for the Steelers. In-fact, it’s not even like Thanksgiving morning, Easter morning or a snow day, if you’re still in school.

NFL free-agency for a Steelers fan is like that morning your wife/girlfriend wakes you up and forces you to go to some local flea market.

You don’t want to go because you know most of the merchandise is going to be crap spread out on a bunch of fold-out card tables. And even though you’ll be surrounded by crap, you know you will most likely have to part with some money in-order to buy that “cute” lamp or small statue that you’ll have no real use for, other than hopefully the day some friend stops over your place and says, “That’s a cool lamp, where’d you get it?”

When you really think about it, isn’t that what NFL free-agency is for most teams, even the ones who sign the very top-of-the-line players?

Even if a team signs the best free-agent available, it’s getting a guy who wasn’t deemed valuable enough to get the transition or franchise tag from his former team.

I know what you’re going to say, “What about Stephon Gilmore, who signed with the Patriots and made them so much better than they already were as defending Super Bowl champions?”

Good point. Gilmore is a cornerback, formerly of the Bills, who signed a five-year, $65 million contract last week, a deal that has so many Steelers fans already conceding Super Bowl LII to the Patriots.

OK, but if Gilmore is such an upgrade for New England, why were you so upset when Logan Ryan, a cornerback formerly of the Patriots who Pittsburgh was rumored to be interested in at the onset of free-agency, agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with the Titans?

Ryan might be good, but if he was THAT good, shouldn’t the Patriots have tried to retain his services, rather than pay that much more for Gilmore’s?

I’m not saying the likes of Ryan and Dre Kirkpatrick, another corner who was rumored to be in Pittsburgh’s free-agent wheel house before he agreed to stay with the Bengals to the tune of $52 million over the next five years, aren’t good, but are they good enough to be one of the highest paid players on the Steelers’ roster before they even play a down?

You might think so because you’re of the mentality that, well, if you’re not getting better (during free-agency), you’re getting worse, but what do you define as “better”?

This might seem cliched, but football is the ultimate team sport, and it’s very rare that one player makes you better. Yes, sometimes one player can put a football team over the top, but how do we know that one player isn’t named Landry Jones or David Johnson, two players the team elected to re-sign rather than give you some faux excitement by bringing in people from other teams?

Jones may not be an exciting signing, but if he can win a game or two for the Steelers in 2017 while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is recovering from a hypothetical injury, wouldn’t that be worth it?

Sure, Jones was already here, but you know who else was already on the roster 13 offseasons ago at the onset of free-agency? Legendary running back Jerome Bettis, who seemed to survive the loss of his starting job to Amos Zereoue in 2003 and was the workhorse in the backfield by the end of the year.

However, after a less than exciting start to free-agency, Pittsburgh, coming off a 6-10 finish in 2003, inked running back Duce Staley to a very news-worthy deal. At the beginning of 2004, Staley was the workhorse in the backfield, while Bettis was the guy fans booed for entering the game in goal line situations and “stealing” touchdowns from No. 22. But by the end of the season, Bettis was the workhorse in the backfield, while Staley was an injured back standing on the sidelines in sweats.

While he had to take a backseat to youngster Willie Parker in 2005, Bettis proved to be the team’s inspiration for reaching and winning Super Bowl XL in Detroit. Meanwhile, the scene of Staley standing around in sweats, today, that’s what that exciting free-agent signing is most associated with.

You might not think the signings of the likes of Jones and Johnson are very exciting right now, but that’s because it’s not Christmas morning. It’s the morning you go to the local flea market.

“That’s a cool backup quarterback. Where’d you get it?”