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The Steelers do what they always do in free agency, and fans are somehow still shocked

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I lived in Delaware for 17 years and it never failed to amaze me how many people developed amnesia each winter, forgetting that it snows in Delaware every year. That same ailment afflicts a large portion of the Steelers’ fanbase, who annually complain about the team rarely signing big-name free agents, despite the team’s success at operating exactly in this manner being nearly legendary at this point.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After a week and a half of free agency, it’s clear the Steelers’ front-office personnel knew what they were doing all along.

Shocking, I know.

I mean, it’s not like this is an organization that has won a league-leading six NFL championships. Oh, wait. It is.

Okay, well, it’s not like general manager Kevin Colbert has been at the helm for personnel decisions at a time when the team has been to three Super Bowls and drafted the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, Casey Hampton, Hines Ward and Heath Miller. What?

Okay, fine. It’s not like head coach Mike Tomlin guided the Steelers to two Super Bowls, winning one, and has never had a losing season!


Alright, alright. Let’s face it: this is a team that knows how to draft well, and picks its spots carefully in free agency. It’s always been that way, at least since the team hired Chuck Noll to be head coach in 1969. In the almost 50 years since, there have been three truths:

  1. A Rooney has always been in charge
  2. The team plans for the long-term, as evidenced by the average of more than 16 years’ tenure for their three head coaches in that span
  3. Big-splash free-agent signings are very few, and very far between

But you’d think they collectively had lost their minds after the first five days of free agency came and went with nary a sniff at a potential signing, while big-name, big-dollar contracts were flying across the NFL’s fax machines as fast as they could be printed, if you listened to the cries of the fanbase. By the morning of Monday, March 19, 2018, many fans were poised on the proverbial ledge, pondering whether to take the leap.

“All the good free agents are gone! We didn’t sign anyone! The sky is falling!”

Then the Steelers signed linebacker Jon Bostic to an exceedingly cap-friendly contract, and followed it up a day later by signing former Green Bay do-it-all defensive back Morgan Burnett, and fans who, 36 hours prior, were actively seeking Colbert’s head on a pike, suddenly were lauding the front office.

“I love the Bostick signing, and Burnett is going to save the franchise! The Steelers are operating free agency in 3018 while the rest of the league is still in 2018!”

While I admit that’s hyperbole on my part that is so far over the edge that it borders on meme territory, it was nonetheless amusing to see the fanbase do a 180 on the heels of two lunchpail-like signing that are not going to set the world on fire, but which give the team the exact type of flexibility in the upcoming draft that has enabled them to field a team that is a perennial contender.

In other words, the Steelers did what the Steelers always do, and somehow the fans questioned it as if the Steelers had just moved 90 minutes west and had become the Cleveland Browns.

Heck, less than two weeks ago, I predicted exactly this: that the Steelers would sell a few expensive pieces, then make a few low-key signings of guys who would contribute early and often without breaking the bank. How did I know?

Because that’ how the Steelers have operated my entire life. And yours, too.

That’s not to say the Steelers shouldn’t make some sort of blockbuster move, and it doesn’t mean they still won’t. They are a better team now than they were two weeks ago, but there is room to improve further.

But one truth remains: the Steeler Way works. As fans, it might be best for our health if we simply trust it until it stops working. So, sit back, have a pierogi n’at, and enjoy the ride.