I promise I’ll try not to swoon over the Pittsburgh Steelers’ too much. They are a franchise. A business. And make cold, calculated decisions, like every other team.
But man, after these last 48 hours, it’s hard not to wave that Terrible Towel a little harder.
Robert Golden‘s contract came in low. Even those who were steadfast in their declaration that I was crazy about Golden’s value. The one you wound up being completely right about. But even the ones who disagreed the most have to admit the average yearly value of $1.66 million was out of left field. This is a player who could very realistically start Week One. Playing for peanuts. A strong 2015 season, starting four weeks and playing in dime packages the last quarter of the season, and he barely gets a raise?
Darrius Heyward-Bey could’ve left Pittsburgh. He’s 29. Speed that won’t last forever. Once it goes, so does his NFL career. Coming off as strong of a season as you could hope for a #4 WR entering camp, this was his last chance to sign a contract that offered any sort of money. And with Sammie Coates hot on his heels, he may not even make it out of camp as the #4 WR.
But he stayed. Signed a three year deal, basically a series of one year deals that offer very little security, with a reported $3.8 million value. Total. In a great interview on Steelers.com, Heyward-Bey was very honest about why he wanted to stay.
“I have made this place home and I am glad I can call it that for three more years. This organization gave me a chance to keep my career going. I think I was in a real unique situation two years ago. Former Top 10 pick, probably a guy a lot of people didn’t believe in, but the Steelers did. They believed in me.”
Belief. A feeling of loyalty. Of respect. Those aren’t terms you hear associated in the league anymore. For either side.
Then there’s William Gay. It’s not a shock he came back. It’s a shock at how little he came back for. Assuming the number is true, it’s a $7.5 million contract. There’s no guarantee he sees Year Three. His signing bonus figures to be low, base salaries that don’t even register on the national radar.
Did Omar Khan forge the contract?
In all seriousness, these three deals point to one element. Culture. An organization that represents stability. Ownership that has never changed. Hopefully never will. A coaching staff with individuals who have been in one place longer than most players. John Mitchell. James Daniel. Keith Butler. Mike Tomlin.
A team that always competes. Never rebuilding, in the muck of the bottom of the league. Where the expectation stays the same. From the first day of the new year, under the sun-kissed field in Latrobe, players know what experience they’re getting as well as any team in the league.
That value can’t be quantified by a dollar figure. The Steelers are one of the few teams that don’t need to open a briefcase full of cash to get someone to buy in. It’s refreshing, to the fan and apparently, to the player. The words mean something. Every team promises the moon. But the Steelers have the rich history to back it up.
Who would want to leave that?