There have been quite a few major storylines for the Pittsburgh Steelers since they lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game and with the team’s 2017 offseason practices now completed, and the start of training camp a good five weeks away, it’s as good a time as any to recap what has happened with the team over the course of the last five months.
January 24, 2017 – Roethlisberger Undecided On 2017 – After the 2016 season ended for the Steelers, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t immediately ready to commit to playing in 2017 as he indicated he would need to consult with his family and take inventory of his overall health before making such a commitment. This led to some speculation that Roethlisberger might decide to retire.
February 6, 2017 – Gilbert Gone – Out of nowhere, the Steelers waived cornerback Justin Gilbert in early February. Gilbert, who still had one year left on his contract at the time, had been acquired by the Steelers via a trade with the Cleveland Browns just prior to the start of the 2016 regular season. While he didnt play very much during the 2016 season, it was speculated by many that he would be back to compete during training camp for a roster spot. In late May, the league announced that Gilbert had been suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
February 27, 2017 – Bell Gets Tagged – The Steelers, to nobody’s surprise, placed the franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell in late February. Bell, who is now scheduled to earn a little more than $12 million in 2017, now has until July 17 to sign a long-term contract extension with the Steelers. If no new deal is consummated by the mid-July deadline, Bell will have to play under the franchise tag in 2017.
February 27, 2017 – Brown Locked Up – It didn’t take long for Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown to get his expected new deal as he signed a $68 million contract extension with the Steelers in late February. The extension made Brown the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL and he’s now under contract through the 2021 season.
March 1, 2017 – Two More Years For Deebo – The Steelers re-signed veteran outside linebacker James Harrison to two-year contract just ahead of him becoming an unrestricted free agent.
March 3, 2017 – Harris Has Enough – Even though he still had one year remaining on his contract with Steelers, tackle Ryan Harris decided to retire in early March after 10 years in the NFL. Harris, who was signed by the Steelers on March 15, 2016, only played in four games last season before needing to be placed on the teams Reserve/Injured list due to serious a leg hematoma he had suffered.
March 9, 2017 – No. 2 Returns For Two More – The Steelers re-signed backup quarterback Landry Jones to a two-year contract just after the start of the free agent signing period.
March 10, 2017 – Timmons Leaves For Miami – While it wasn’t totally unexpected that he would be gone, long-time Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons signed a two-year, $12 million free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins just after the start of the new league year.
March 13, 2017 – Bell Has Groin Surgery – After receiving multiple opinions on the groin he injured late last season, Bell ultimately underwent surgery to fix it in mid-March. At the time, Bell was expected to be ready for the start of training camp in late July and general manager Kevin Colbert later said that the team was in no hurry to rush him back as they want to make sure he’s fully healthy for the 2017 season.
March 14, 2017 – Hightower Visits Pittsburgh – After losing Timmons, the Steelers brought in then-unrestricted free agent inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower for a visit and after a long day of meetings with the team, he ultimately left unsigned. Hightower then proceeded to re-sign with the Patriots a few days later.
March 21, 2017 – Alualu Signed – While the Steelers had already signed three outside unrestricted free agents, their inking of former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Tyson Alualu to a two-year contract wound up being their biggest splash. Alualu, a former first-round draft pick, was signed to provide experienced depth to the Steelers defensive line group.
April 7, 2017 – Roethlisberger To Keep Playing – While it was a forgone conclusion in most fan’s minds that Roethlisberger would indeed ultimately decide to play in 2017, he waited until early April before announcing that he would. Even so, he has since indicated that he would take future decisions to play on a year-by-year basis.
April 24, 2017 – Shazier Has Fifth-Year Option Picked Up – Just ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Steelers unsurprisingly announced that they decided to pick up the fifth-year option on inside linebacker Ryan Shazier. The Steelers former first-round draft pick out of Ohio State is now scheduled to earn $8.7 million in 2018 and it’s easy to speculate that the team will try to sign him to longer extension sometime next year during the offseason.
April 25, 2017 – Bryant Conditionally Reinstated – After sitting out the entire 2016 season suspended due to multiple violations of the league’s substance abuse policy, Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant had to wait until just before the 2017 NFL Draft took place to find out he was conditionally reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell. Bryant, who now looks to be in great shape and even a few pounds heavier, took part in all the Steelers offseason practices since his return to the team and appears to be on a straight and narrow path. His return should be a huge boost for the Steelers offense in 2017.
April 27, 2017 – Watt Drafted In First Round To Help Pass Rush – The 2017 NFL Draft featured the Steelers making all eight of their scheduled selections. Their first-round pick was used to select former Wisconsin outside linebacker T.J. Watt with the hope being that he can quickly find his way on the field and help improve the defenses pass rush.
May 18, 2017 – Warren And Green Released – The Steelers decided to move on from longtime long snapper Greg Warren and 2016 free agent bust, tight end Ladarius Green, in mid-May. Both players were released with failed physical designations.
May 23, 2017 – Bell No-Shows Start Of OTAs – Even though he was unlikely healthy enough to begin practicing, Bell decided not to show up for the start of the Steelers OTA practices. Bell, who has still yet to sign his franchise tag, was only spotted briefly during the remainder of the team’s offseason practices.
May 23, 2017 – Villanueva Practices – Even though he hadn’t signed the one-year exclusive rights tender that he received from the Steelers earlier in the offseason, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva did show up for the team’s OTA practices in late March and even participated in the practices after signing an injury waiver that allowed him to do so. Villanueva is still hoping to sign a contract extension with the Steelers prior to the start of the 2017 regular season and he finally decided to talk to the media about his situation during the final week of OTA practices.
June 14, 2017 – 2017 Draft Class Signed, Sealed & Delivered – The Steelers finished signing all eight of their draft picks in mid-June as Watt was the last of the bunch to put his signature on the dotted line.