Season Of Change: Back To Plan A In Free Agency Approach

Over the course of the past couple of years, the Pittsburgh Steelers have undergone an uncommon amount of change, which could have been largely correlated with the fact that the team had finished 8-8 in consecutive seasons while failing to advance to the postseason.

In deference to general manager Kevin Colbert, the attitude used to approach the offseason in those years was that this was an 8-8 team and these were 8-8 players. It’s little surprise that a lot of things changed during those years.

But the Steelers are now coming off a season in which they finished with a record of 11-5, going 8-2 down the stretch and winning their last four games to claim their first AFC North title since the 2010 season. Correspondingly, we’ve seen a great deal less change.

Some changes come due to a reversion to the norm, and that is what happened this past offseason, after the Steelers broke from their norm in their roster building strategy only to return to their usual operating procedure, so to speak.

Of course, I refer to the fact that the front office dipped heavily, though economically, into the free agency pool during the 2014 offseason in order to help replenish the talent on a roster that had posted 8-8 records in consecutive seasons, for whatever reason.

In large part because of all of the free agent additions, the Steelers experienced a higher than normal roster turnover last season. But as previously discussed in this series, with the team finding success on the field, going 11-5 and winning their division, they have had their highest level of roster retention in years—barring the outcome of the final roster cut downs, of course.

With very few losses, of course, there were few additions to make. In fact, the Steelers added only one veteran free agent this offseason from outside of their organization, although they naturally retained a few of their own key free agents, particularly at inside linebacker.

Interestingly, though unsurprisingly, that free agent addition came at a position that the front office has tried to address in previous offseasons, with the 2014 season being most prominent. That spot would be the backup running back position.

As mentioned earlier in this piece, while the Steelers did dip their feet in the free agent pool last year, they did so economically, with only a handful of their signings coming in for more than the veteran minimum on multiple-year deals.

Among those was the addition of running back LeGarrette Blount, who signed a two-year, $4 million contract. After he was released during the season for what essentially amounted to insubordination, the team was left short-handed for the remainder of the year.

Not wanting to run into that same position again, the front office turned back to the veteran free agent market to find a complement to Le’Veon Bell, this time settling for DeAngelo Williams, who at the very least certainly seems to have the right mindset for the job.

Due in no small part to the Steelers’ few successes in utilizing the free agent process last offseason—they have retained a few of their key free agent pickups, such as Arthur Moats—they had the luxury of not being forced to rely upon it again this offseason. The solitary move at a key position shows an organization returning to its preferred balance.

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