The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2017 season ended not only prematurely, but also bitterly, suffering an early postseason exit after falling to the Jacksonville Jaguars at home in the Divisional Round by a score of 45-42. The wounds are still fresh, but it’s time to relive the 2017 season that was, starting from the beginning.
Chapter II – Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
While the 2016 season may have ended in spectacularly poor fashion, being blown out by the New England Patriots in Foxboro, just as everybody seemed to expect, the Steelers, believe it or not, didn’t actually just give in and collectively retire, closing up the franchise and moving on to the next phase in their lives.
Instead, they quickly went to work, figuring out what they needed to do to change the outcome from a year ago. They went about their business, starting with the signing of Reserve/Future players, which is always the first step of any offseason, and that proved to be a valuable asset.
Among the players that they signed to Reserve/Future contracts was Mike Hilton, who became the team’s starting slot cornerback by the second half of their first game, who recorded a couple of interceptions and four sacks in his first season. Other notables were Matt Feiler, Marcus Tucker, and Kameron Canaday.
But then it was on to the next phase. The Scouting Combine. And Pro Days. And preparing for free agency. The Steelers for once had a ton of cap space, much of which they ended up using on placing the franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell, which cost a bit over $12 million. Now they are grappling with placing the tag on him again.
They also worked out a long-term contract extension with Antonio Brown, while their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, spent some time to clear his head while talking about retirement and giving everybody a fright.
They released Justin Gilbert, and Ryan Harris retired. They re-signed Steven Johnson and David Johnson, neither of whom would end up on the roster—at least for long. They signed James Harrison to a two-year deal, and then released him for basically insubordination during the season. And they re-signed Landry Jones.
The groundwork had been lain for them to hit free agency with a splash, having something like 10s of millions in caps space to work with, if they so chose, which was rare. But they made some moves in recent years with Mike Mitchell and Ladarius Green, so surely they would manage to pull something off in free agency with all that money, right?
We’ll revisit just how the free agency period went down in chapter two as we commence our recap of the 2017 season that was, and should not have been.
Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken is the motto of House Martell in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe (y’know, Game of Thrones). It’s also the name of an album by Swedish heavy metal band Hammerfall, where I first heard the phrase. But it fits the theme here.