The Optimist’s Take – More Restructures For Instant Impact

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: Should the Steelers continue to restructure other players to gain cap space in 2015?

Over the past few years, fans of the Steelers have expressed quite mixed feelings about the team’s tendency to utilize contract restructuring as a tool to manage their salary cap. A few years ago, it was a virtual necessity just to get compliant with the cap.

Now, that is no longer the case, but they have continued to use this bookkeeping wizardry into this offseason in order to get well below the cap. Restructures have already been completed for right tackle Marcus Gilbert and safety Mike Mitchell. One can debate on the specific contracts, but that is another discussion.

It was also previously reported that the Steelers have talked with center Maurkice Pouncey, and Bob Labriola wrote yesterday on the team’s website that there are reports of Antonio Brown also being discussed. The last bit I had not heard previously, though I may have missed it.

If the Steelers continue to create cap space in 2015, then that suggests that they do not intend to stay as idle as I previously thought. Another restructure or two (a Shaun Suisham or a Lawrence Timmons, perhaps in conjunction with a modest extension) could give the team the funds necessary to go out and acquire a legitimate talent from the outside while leaving enough money left over to complete their necessary tasks.

As I’ve talked about before, one factor that must be kept in mind is the concept of the championship window. Quite frankly, it’s awfully hard to crack open that window without a franchise quarterback. The Steelers have one now, and that means selling out every season as long as you believe he can keep that window open.

So going out and potentially acquiring a true starting-caliber difference maker on the defensive side of the ball in the secondary or off the edge could be realistic if the Steelers really choose to create the space necessary. Keep kicking the can down the road, as long as that road leads you down the path to being a Super Bowl contender.

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