The Pittsburgh Steelers were bigger players in free agency this offseason than they had been in several years, dipping into the talent pool and coming away with a number of players at varying contract levels, destined for all sorts of roles within the team. Some of those signings have admittedly worked better than others.
In light of the recent release of one of those players, running back LeGarrette Blount, and a second consecutive week of drawing the ire of the coaching staff by safety Mike Mitchell, now might be a good time to go back and revisit this class of free agent signings as the Steelers head into their bye week.
Mike Mitchell, FS (5 Years, $25M): Mitchell was the Steelers’ big ‘splash’ free agent signing, who replaced Ryan Clark as the free safety in the starting lineup. He got off to a slow start, and has not been playing well the last couple games. He was reprimanded for leaping over the offensive line on a kneel down a week ago, and after the last game, had his social media privileges revoked after telling a user to kill himself. This being a long-term deal, however, there could still be a long way to tell how this one plays out.
LeGarrette Blount, RB (2 Years, $4M): The chapter on LeBackfield has already been written, and its valleys have been deeper than its peaks high. While he rushed for over 100 yards in Week Three, he was arrested for suspicion of using marijuana while in a vehicle, and has been petulant over his playing time, which led to his release. Not that there weren’t already warning signs, but it’s now obvious why he is looking for his fifth team in five years.
Cam Thomas, DL (2 Years, $4M): Whether or not the Steelers penciled Thomas into the starting lineup when they initially signed him, I don’t know, but he’s still in the starting lineup despite the fact that he hasn’t played particularly well all season. The most viable candidate to replace him is somebody the team would like to keep on a snap count, while rookie Stephon Tuitt has seen little playing time of late.
Lance Moore, WR (2 Years, $3M): Moore pretty much completely missed the boat on establishing himself as the number three receiver when he began the year with an injury. The team went directly from Justin Brown to Martavis Bryant, and Moore is lucky to see a target or two per game now. Basically where Jerricho Cotchery was during his first two years in Pittsburgh.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR (1 Year, Vet Min): Heyward-Bey’s greatest achievement so far has been drawing a 40-yard pass interference call. He also converted a third down once. He also fumbled the ball after a catch, negated an onside kick recovery for being offside, and has had multiple other special teams penalties. Yet he’s still playing over Brown.
Arthur Moats, OLB (1 Year, Vet Min): Though he’s certainly not set the world on fire, Moats has done a solid job of splitting time holding down the fort at right outside linebacker in the absence of Jarvis Jones. In truth, however, Moats may start the game, but it’s been James Harrison taking most of the snaps of late.
Brice McCain, CB (1 Year, Vet Min): Well, he’s in the starting lineup. In fact, the Steelers have four free agent signings in the starting lineup on defense right now—not that that’s how it was designed. And that may change by the next time the Steelers play. Overall, McCain has done a tolerable job while being asked to do more than he should be asked to do. He did have a key pick six, as well as a fumble recovery.
Adam Podlesh, P (1 Year, Vet Min): I hope that you’ve all read about Podlesh’s story and how he almost lost not only his newborn child, but also his wife. It’s unfortunate that the veteran punter wasn’t able to come to camp and compete for a job, but football was the last thing on his mind as he tended to the needs of his loved ones. The Steelers kept him on the Did Not Report List and have not been on the hook for his salary. No harm, no foul. Not that there weren’t bigger issues at stake.