If you haven’t taken notice quite yet, the free agent market for pass rushers has pretty much ripped and dipped beneath the Pittsburgh Steelers’ shoulder, leaving them out in the cold with only Arthur Moats to show for it.
That is nearly equally true across the board for most positions around the league, as the majority of significant names have already found new homes. There will not be a ton of huge contracts left to give out, and it’s a virtual certainty that none of them will be handed out to a free agent by the Steelers.
And yet the Steelers do have the salary cap space necessary to get them through to the regular season, after restructuring the contract of Maurkice Pouncey, which saved them nearly $4 million. It is believed that Ben Roethlisberger’s new contract also shaved off about another million—and quite frankly I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any more than that.
Why? Because there’s not much left worth spending that money on. And that has me wondering whether or not it’s necessary—dare I say worth it—to coerce Troy Polamalu into retirement.
Now, I know that it’s widely been reported that the Steelers fully and with virtual certainty intend to part ways with Polamalu, whether they can get him to retire or they are forced to cut him. Reportedly, only team president Art Rooney II could save him for one more season at this point. I get that.
I just wonder if the team wouldn’t be better served giving him one more season, with the consideration that the money that they would save by releasing him no longer seems quite as valuable as it once did if the Steelers were actually going to make a play in free agency beyond a $2 million per season running back, and perhaps a modest cornerback pickup.
There’s no denying that Polamalu is not the player that he once was, although I do believe that he did play better in 2014—particularly prior to his injury, which lingered throughout the rest of the season—than most are willing to give him credit for.
He played especially well in the box against the run, though even there he fell off his game some. Yet he had long been a salve for a suspect run defense, and he can still do that. He can still serve some role on this team.
And he can still be a legitimate fallback option if Shamarko Thomas does not work out in the starting lineup. I think that would be a valuable asset to have in hand, even if they fully intend to put Thomas out on the field ahead of Polamalu.
The 33-year old former All-Pro could be an excellent nickel player, or he could allow the Steelers to use more dime, as they did in 2013, when he played as a linebacker at the second level of the defense.
I know this doesn’t appear to be something the Steelers are seriously considering, based on all available reports, but I don’t think it’s a terrible idea by any means, especially if there’s nothing better available to use that money on. And if they could get him to agree to a pay cut on top of it all? Gravy.