The Pittsburgh Steelers had a busy final Monday of February as not only did they place the franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell, they also signed wide receiver Antonio Brown to a four-year extension that results in him being the highest-paid player in the NFL at his position. With those two formalities now out of the way ahead of the start of the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the Steelers still have some business at hand moving into the remainder of the offseason.
While Brown is now locked-up long-term, Bell isn’t past the 2017 season. Even so, the Steelers now have until July 15 to get a long-term contract finalized with Bell and one can easily speculate that will get accomplished even though it might not happen until right before the deadline. Like Brown, Bell should become the highest-paid player at his position before the Steelers report to Latrobe for training camp.
At some point during the remainder of the offseason the Steelers will likely sign defensive end Stephon Tuitt to a five-year contract extension and it will be surprising if that doesn’t happen. Tuitt is about to enter the final year of his rookie contract on March 9 and thus should have a new deal in place prior to the start of the 2017 regular season. Tuitt’s extension might not happen until after the team reports for training camp but that’s not to say that it can’t or won’t happen earlier.
Prior to Tuitt signing a new deal, the Steelers will likely come to terms with a few of their players who are set to become unrestricted free agents on March 9 and leading that list of candidates are linebackers James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons in addition to quarterback Landry Jones as the team has made it clear they would like to have the three back in 2017 if at all possible. While not guaranteed to happen, running back DeAngelo Williams and defensive end Ricardo Mathews are two other players who are set to become unrestricted free agents who might be offered contracts at some point during the coming weeks.
The Steelers are also expected to restricted tender cornerback Ross Cockrell before March 9 and the same thing could ultimately happen with tackle Chris Hubbard. Additionally, the Steelers might decide the time is right to sign tackle Alejandro Villanueva to a long-term extension in the coming weeks and months even though he can be easily retained with a one-year exclusive rights tender for the minimum for his accrued years. Regardless, Villanueva will be back with the Steelers in 2017.
While it’s only a formality at this point, the Steelers are expected to pick up the fifth-year option on linebacker Ryan Shazier between now and May 3 so that’s another order of business you can expect to happen.
With February now ending, the Steelers have begun to insert a few pieces of their 2017 puzzle firmly into place before turning their attention to the combine. Several other pieces of that puzzle will be arranged and put into their proper spots in the coming weeks and months and it will be fun to sit back and watch the entire picture develop.