This offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers have allowed a number of their less heralded role players to not only vigorously test the open market, but also to sign elsewhere. Some of these players have played very significant roles over the course of recent years, and it will be a bit of an adjustment to not see them out on the field with the Steelers.
But for some, it won’t be long before they are reunited with their former teammates in the black and gold. Based on the Steelers’ 2016 schedule, they will be getting the opportunity to see four of their former players on the opposite sideline for the first time over the course of the regular season.
While the final details of the schedule are yet to be settled, we have known who the Steelers’ opponents would be for some time. Four of those opponents happened to sign one of their free agents. Most notable is the Jets, who signed three-year starting nose tackle Steve McLendon to a three-year deal worth up to $12, which Pittsburgh is not willing to match.
The team with whom they share a stadium, the Giants, also recently acquired a former Steeler of their own, signing Will Johnson to a two-year contract. The Steelers just so happen to play the NFC East every four seasons, with 2016 being one of those years.
That also means that Pittsburgh will be seeing Terence Garvin again after he signed a one-year contract to play for the Redskins. Garvin, of course, was actually initially a restricted free agent, but the team declined to offer him a tender, rendering him an unrestricted ‘street’ free agent.
Last, and admittedly probably least, is Jordan Todman, who managed to sign with the Colts, whom the Steelers will play yet again, as they seem to do often enough. Todman opened the season as the team’s third-string running back but essentially ended up being the fourth-string running back, and ultimately the second-string in the playoffs due to injuries.
As if that were not enough, it is worth pointing out that the Steelers always play the Panthers during the preseason in recent years, and as we all know, Carolina signed cornerback Brandon Boykin to a one-year, veteran-minimum contract—which, provided he makes the team, will mean that he is virtually guaranteed to have a longer tenure there than he did in Pittsburgh.
As a bonus, courtesy of the Ravens, former 2009 third-round wide receiver Mike Wallace is now back in the AFC North. Wallace spent his first four seasons in Pittsburgh before cashing in big in free agency. He played the first two years of his contract with the Dolphins before being traded last year to the Vikings. The was released subsequently and signed by Baltimore, whom, of course, the Steelers will play twice.
Perhaps it’s just my perception, but it feels to me that the Steelers’ pathway through the 2016 season is paved with more familiar faces than it typically is. For a team that tends to build its roster via the draft and retaining its own, that hypothesis may indeed be accurate.