clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Steelers patient again in free agency, but maybe that's a good thing

If the Steelers remain patient in free agency, they may actually find a decent player at a not-so inflated price.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are again: another year, another quiet first week of free agency for your Pittsburgh Steelers.

Like most fans, you probably anticipated they would do nothing, but at the same time hoped they'd surprise you with something.

Almost a week into this thing (as of this writing, at least), and you're still wondering who will take Ryan Shazier's place at inside linebacker (Update: it may be former Colts linebacker Jon Bostic, who signed with Pittsburgh on Sunday). And if that worry isn't enough, you're probably concerned about who Sean Davis will partner up with at safety, what with the releases of both Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden last week.

I don't blame you for your concern. After all, those are two major needs for a Super Bowl contender that doesn't really have many others beyond them.

Yes, if there's one time of the year Steelers fans envy those who root for the likes of the Browns and Jets, it's this time of year, when those fans get to bathe in the warmth of salary cap space, space that allows for huge signings, such as the five-year, $72 million deal former Rams corner Trumaine Johnson signed with New York.

Good for the Jets, they got the fourth-best free agent, at least according to CBS' Pete Prisco, who has done a fine job of updating us on the top 50 free agents in this year's crop.

If you scroll through Brisco's top 50, you'll see that a player manning one of those positions of need for Pittsburgh doesn't pop up until number 19, Packers safety Morgan Burnett.

Burnett, 29, would fit in nicely with the Steelers defense, at least if this glowing report from Walterfootball is spot on:

"Green Bay's defense has been atrocious in recent seasons, but don't blame Morgan Burnett. The 29-year old is the centerpiece of Green Bay's defense, playing numerous positions. He should be able to perform on an extremely high level for at least three more years."

He sure would look great in black and gold, but at what price? And why hasn't he signed with anyone yet (again, as of this writing)?

Furthermore, Burnett is the 19th-best free agent on the market, which would likely put him about 15 spots below Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, if he were actually allowed to be a free agent this year.

(Update: As of this morning the Steelers were reportedly close to signing Burnett.)

The next available safety on Brisco's board is the Saints' Kenny Vaccaro, who struggled with a groin injury in 2017 and finished the year on Injured Reserve. If you remember the many ailments Mitchell sustained during his four years in Pittsburgh—not to mention the concussion problems tight end Ladarious Green arrived in town with two years ago—Vaccaro doesn't exactly scream big money deal.

Behind Vaccaro as the 28th ranked free agent on Brisco's board is former 49ers' safety Eric Reid, 26, who, despite missing a dozen games the past two seasons, appears to be uber-talented and just the kind of guy the Steelers like to target in free agency.

Unfortunately, he was one of those players that did that thing on the sidelines with that one backup quarterback and now claims he is being blackballed for it.

Moving on to the top free agent inside linebackers, which, according to Brisco, starts with former Titans linebacker Avery Williamson. Unfortunately, Williamson inked a deal with those Jets for three years and $22 million ($16 million of it being guaranteed, as per spotrac).

The 26-year old Williamson, a fifth-round pick in 2014, may have been the ideal free agent signing for Pittsburgh, but at $22 million? That's a lot of money for a team with a lot of money tied up in a lot of other players.

The other linebackers on the list, such as former Raiders backer NaVorro Bowman, don't exactly make one comfortable that they'd be able to step in and show they were worth whatever over-inflated deal they would get to try and take Shazier's place.

So, again, the Steelers remain quiet (at least as of this writing), but this doesn't mean they will stay that way.

A year ago, when they were making everyone angry by signing depth players, such as Coty Sensabaugh and Knile Davis, who would have thought the Steelers would ultimately land a Godsend such as Browns cornerback Joe Haden?

With or without the financial restraints that have to do with Bell's contract status, the Steelers weren't likely to throw money at free agents that--as I've said many times—weren't even deemed valuable enough to be slapped with the same kind of franchise tag Bell has had to deal with the past two springs.

Now with a week or so to see where the free agent market falls, maybe a Lawrence Timmons becomes the answer, and if not him, who?

None of those inside linebackers will make you jump for joy, but their performance won't likely fall far below players like Williamson and Bowman--and they'll come much cheaper.

And if the Steelers are willing to accept a safety that did that thing on the sidelines with that backup quarterback (even if you're not), maybe they'll get a really high-end player at a bargain price.

NFL free agency isn't really all that it's cracked up to be—not until it annually involves the actual best free agents—and the way the Steelers play the game may be frustrating, but it may actually serve them well this time around.