The Pittsburgh Steelers are not the New England Patriots. We found that out over the course of the past few weeks the hard way. But there are a number of ways in which the organizations differ. The Patriots, for example, frequently dabble in the trade market. The Steelers rarely do. And their recent history hasn’t been favorable, with Justin Gilbert’s release yesterday marking the completion of another ultimately unsuccessful trade.
The whole situation was made a bit more palatable when sources reported that money previously guaranteed in his contract, which the Steelers took on when they acquired him, were voided, so the report is that they are off the hook for his cap hit of what would have been a couple million dollars.
But what did they ultimately get out of him for a sixth-round draft pick? A dozen or so snaps on defense and a couple of kick returns of varying quality? Rest assured that the Steelers didn’t release him thinking that he had any sort of strong future. There’s a reason Al-Hajj Shabazz is here and Gilbert is not.
I broke down the Steelers’ recent history of trades in a previous article last year when the move was first made, so I’m not going to rehash everything right here. You can read that article, which in hindsight was appropriately named “Recent Trade History Does Not Bode Well For Justin Gilbert Move”, by clicking on the title.
As mentioned, the Steelers don’t trade often, but in recent history, when they have traded for players, it has not generally gone well. They traded for two players in 2015, one of them being Josh Scobee. You know how that went. The trade for Brandon Boykin wasn’t so bad as he eventually became the team’s slot corner, but the reality is that his value in fans’ mind was vastly inflated to begin with.
So ultimately the Steelers traded fifth- and sixth-round picks in the past two years because Senquez Golson got injured and they wanted to shore up the depth chart. They got depth, but were the late-round investments worth the piece of mind?
It’s worth keeping in mind that the Steelers were big fans of Gilbert going into that draft class and would have taken him had he been available. It’s much better that they got him for a 2018 sixth-round pick and one year’s salary rather than in the first round, so at least there’s that angle as solace.
Gilbert, Boykin, Scobee…Levi Brown, remember him? The Steelers have traded up in the fourth round twice in recent years for Shamarko Thomas and Alameda Ta’amu. I don’t think I have to belabor the point that they didn’t really get what they were hoping for. Especially for Thomas, given that they gave up a third-round pick for him.
There are no doubt certain sections of the fan base who give the front office a lot more grief than they deserve. But that doesn’t mean they do everything right. The number of trades that haven’t panned out as they envisioned is piling up.