The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Do the Steelers need to change their approach to evaluating free agents?
There is always a strong desire within the Steelers’ fanbase for the organization to ‘change their ways’ in one form or another, whether it’s letting young players play faster (which they have done), with the way that they do contracts, who they hold on to, and how they approach unrestricted outside free agency.
They have done that to a certain extent in recent years, referring specifically to a change in their approach to outside free agency. While they still have not gone out and gotten anybody at the very top of the market, they did come within the ballpark with Joe Haden, the only bigger signing that has actually worked out, in the sense that he is projected to complete his three-year contract.
Mike Mitchell played four years of his five-year deal before he was released. Ladarius Green saw just one year of a four-year deal before he was released. And Morgan Burnett likely will only see the first year of his three-year contract that he signed in 2018.
All three of those players saw injuries play a key role in their eventual (or pending) releases, though in Mitchell’s case there wasn’t really an obvious history prior to signing. That history really started almost as soon as he signed, suffering tears in his groin in his first offseason.
Both Green and Burnett had history missing games due to injury prior to signing, and history repeated itself. Then again, Vance McDonald only missed one game last year, so sometimes injury situations can reverse themselves.
With that in mind, you don’t necessarily want to tell the Steelers to completely back away from the bargain table, because when one works out, it can be great, like James Farrior or Ryan Clark. They can really use that kind of signing right about now, come to think of it, but do they need to consider changing their approach? Are they not getting enough accurate information about players before they’re signed?