Steelers Still Profiting From Compensatory Formula Despite Seeming Indifference

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert spoke the other day, among other topics, about the compensatory pick process, saying that while the team tries to predict their compensation based on their understanding of the formula, it’s a “real complicated formula”, which is a statement of the obvious for anybody that follows such news.

In fact, Colbert said that the Steelers have gotten more picks than he has predicted they would receive in the past, implying that the team’s estimations of the process tend to skew on the conservative end of the spectrum.

Last season, the Steelers were awarded a sixth-round compensatory selection for the loss of William Gay, whom, by the time the draft rolled around, was already back on the roster. That compensatory pick was used to draft Vince Williams, who is projected to be the team’s starting Buck inside linebacker this year.

A year earlier, the Steelers were awarded a trio of seventh-round compensatory selections for minor departures. While half of their four seventh-round picks flushed out, their final pick is currently their starting left tackle in the form of Kelvin Beachum.

As yesterday’s news suggested, this year’s compensatory system was no different in upstaging conservative estimates.

The Steelers were awarded compensatory selections in the third, fifth, and sixth rounds. It was widely speculated that if a third compensatory pick were even awarded, it would likely come in the seventh round.

The primary players suggested to have contributed to this formula were Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Mundy and Bruce Gradkowski. While Mendenhall didn’t sign a significant contract, he had significant playing time, which evidently helped boost the final compensatory pick up a round.

That is worth keeping in mind when turning your eyes south and looking at the bounty harvested by the Baltimore Ravens, which includes one third-, two fourth-, and one fifth-round selection.

The third-round selection presumably came from the loss of Paul Kruger, whereas the losses of Dannell Ellerbe and Cary Williams netted fourth-round picks. Ed Reed’s contract equated to the fifth-round pick.

One might ask why Williams was valued at a fourth-round level while Lewis was valued as a fifth (albeit the highest fifth), but that might not even be the right question to ask. It’s also important to note that the Ravens didn’t sign any players that hurt their compensatory selections, while the Steelers did, which could have influenced the discrepancy.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that Lewis’ five-year contract averaged out at $5.1 million per season with $10.5 million guaranteed. Williams signed a three-year contract with the same amount of guaranteed money that pays an average yearly salary of greater than $5.5 million.

The Ravens as an organization seemingly focus more on compensatory picks than any other team in the entire league, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see them come up with significant extra picks.

The Steelers, however, are not nearly as concerned. Three of the four free agent signings outside the organization, for example, were players that would factor into the compensatory formula next year, which is worth keeping in mind when thinking about all the free agents they’ve lost this year.

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