Over the course of the past decade, we have joked about the emergence of ‘Steelers West’, referring to the Arizona Cardinals beginning with the 2007 season, during which former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt took over the head coaching job—now occupied by former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
Within that span of time, any number of former Steelers players at all levels of playing time and financial compensation have come and gone through their facility, from future Hall of Fame guard Alan Faneca to future Hall of Fame reserve defensive end Josh Mauro (I kid, of course).
Recently, another Steelers pipeline has emerged in the south, in Tennesee, where Whisenhunt recently landed as head coach, and was replaced by yet a third former Steelers offensive coordinator, Mike Mularkey. Pittsburgh got it right this last time by finding a head coach to be their offensive coordinator in Todd Haley, it seems, the Benjamin Button of Pittsburgh play callers.
The Titans have no shorts of ‘Burgh representation on both their player roster and coaching staff, a fact that I have detailed earlier this offseason. They added a handful of former Steelers players just this past offseason to play under former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
But it seems that the Steelers are now finding themselves with their own connection to the San Diego Chargers. With the recent signing of tight end David Johnson—admittedly a former Steeler—that makes three former Chargers they have signed this offseason.
They also, of course, signed Cam Thomas two offseasons ago, though he is now a free agent. With defensive end Ricardo Mathews and tight end Ladarius Green this year, that makes two tight ends and two defensive linemen that Pittsburgh has picked up from the Chargers in recent years.
Green is, of course, the notable signing within that group, whom they signed officially on the second day of the league year to a four-year, $20 million contract, a rather significant amount for an outside free agent by their standards. But it is for a player that they valued, as Mike Tomlin described by in Week Five when the Steelers played in San Diego:
Green is a talented vertical-threat-like tight end, an oversized wide receiver if you will. He’s adept at getting up the field. He’s logged a lot of quality reps in the first four weeks of the season and built a nice rapport with Philip Rivers, and I’d imagine that’ll continue even as [Antonio] Gates comes back and I imagine their two tight end set is one that we’re going to have to contend with.
And lest we forget (full disclosure: I did), the Steelers also even added a former Charger in the middle of the 2015 season when they claimed wide receiver Jacoby Jones off waivers. So that makes four Chargers that they played against last year who were later or are now on the team.
Of course, the premise of the San Diego-Pittsburgh pipeline is primarily in jest, and that the Steelers have signed three players from the Chargers this offseason is largely, though not entirely, coincidental. That they already highly scouted one of them, one was a former Steeler, and that they of course game-planned for the Chargers last year all factored into their interest here.
It’s just a way at poking fun at the team and the situation as a whole, with the jocular perception that teams such as the Cardinals and Titans are content to just pick up the Steelers’ scraps, as it were. The Steelers are now picking up the proverbial scraps of the Chargers, but I expect the team to be better for it.