While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.
No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.
With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.
In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the optimistic side of the coin.
Question: Was it wise to push further cap money into the future for safety Mike Mitchell?
Yesterday, it was reported that the Steelers had restructured the contracts of tackle Marcus Gilbert and safety Mike Mitchell, with plans to finalize a restructured deal with center Maurkice Pouncey to follow.
For as much as he is criticized, Gilbert has been a solid starter at right tackle when he can stay healthy, with over 40 starts to his name in four seasons, and he was rewarded with a new contract during the preseason a year ago.
Mitchell, meanwhile, was the Steelers’ ‘big’ free agent signing, a new starting free safety who was brought in on a five-year, $25 million contract, with the dollar values skewing heavily toward the later years.
The thinking was that, should Mitchell falter, the team could walk away early in the contract without leaving behind too much dead money. Restructuring his deal, which evidently cleared perhaps about $2.5 million in cap space, will add about $800,000 or so to the cap hit on the last three years of his contract.
The idea of adding more potential dead money to his deal might sound like a nightmare to many fans, who widely believe that he performed poorly in his first season with the team. But the increase in dead money is not so substantial as to color the move with so much risk.
That the team was willing to push forward any money for cap relief this year in a move that perhaps they could have spared making suggests that they are comfortable making their future projections about Mitchell’s success in the Steelers’ defense.
While there are some questions in his game that wouldn’t seem to necessarily benefit from, for example, a healthy groin or playing without a freelancer next to him, such as taking poor angles or displaying poor tackling technique, there is reason to believe that Mitchell can and should be a more reliable player going forward.
And if that is indeed the case, then that money pushed forward will be money well spent. In the meantime, the cap space this season will go to rebuilding a roster that should compete for another division title.