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: Will the Steelers exercise caution in free agency to preserve their compensatory pick?
While the Steelers like to preserve their own draft picks, they have never been the sort of team that aims to horde picks. Frankly, I have a hard time recalling when the last time it might be since they actually traded down in the draft. I know they traded back in the first round a couple of times, most recently for Heath Miller in 2005.
But when you have a shot at a ‘free’ third-round pick for sitting back and doing nothing, you might be more likely to play the game. And that is the situation the Steelers are looking at right now with running back Le’Veon Bell signing with the New York Jets for over $13 million per season.
Having lost three free agents in total, the Steelers have signed two qualifying players. If they sign another free agent that qualifies for the compensatory formula (an unrestricted free agent signed to a large enough contract to register, and which comes above the maximum number of comp picks threshold), they risk losing a comp pick altogether.
At best, if they gain as many qualifying free agents as they lose, even if the value is greatly disproportionate, they could only hope to receive a value comp pick in the seventh round. And the NFL has more or less tried to stop or slow down issuing seventh-round compensatory picks because there are too many other picks that qualify for the sixth round or higher.
In other words, the Steelers need to be cautious, or hope that more of their own free agents sign qualifying contracts with other teams. Chances are they are not going to be signing any more players to significant contracts anyway, but you never know.
More likely, they could sign a couple more players to veteran-minimum one-year deals, or not far higher than that. according to Over the Cap, the lowest-level qualifying contract signed so far is Josh Mauro’s at $1.3 million per season.
And that’s with bigger names yet to sign or be accounted for, such as Ziggy Ansah, Ndamukong Suh, Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, and others. The lowest-value qualifying contract last year was $2 million per season.