Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers have won nearly as many games as any other team over the course of the past two seasons, the organization has been under quite a bit of fire, and not entirely unjustly. For a team with their talent—they’ve had about a dozen unique Pro Bowlers in that span—to go two seasons without winning a playoff game is a significant concession.
The bigger criticism, however, has stemmed from the manner in which several of their key players have conducted themselves, which some have seen fit to trace back to the way the Steelers run their show. Among the aspects of that conversation is dissatisfaction with contracts, but according to Ray Fittipaldo, General Manager Kevin Colbert doesn’t believe there is any issue with the manner in which they negotiate with players.
This is particularly relevant as it concerns running back Le’Veon Bell, as the Steelers spent two years trying to work out a long-term contract with him but failed to do so. They reportedly offered him up to $15 million per season on average, but Bell found himself significantly concerned with the guaranteed money.
Which is where the team has historically drawn the line. The way they do their contracts is much in contrast to how many other teams do theirs, which often feature very large signing bonus that could be north of half of the total value of the contract.
The Steelers signed Antonio Brown to a four-year, $68 million extension. Only $19 million of that was in the form of a signing bonus. In spite of the fact that he signed that deal two years ago, however, he is now expressing displeasure with it and wants to be traded to a team that will give him more guaranteed money even though he has three years remaining on his deal.
In a chat yesterday, Fittipaldo was asked “what culture exists that causes so many players, and good ones at that, to quit”. He said that he asked Colbert a similar question at the Combine, and while the general manager acknowledged that the recent issues the team have had have been unusual for them, he and the team consider them isolated examples.
“He also does not believe the way the Steelers structure contracts is a problem”, he went on. “He told me he believes the team is more than fair in the way they structure their contracts and pay out money”.
It’s true that the Steelers have pretty much the best rate of payout on the contracts that they sign to players with regard to how much of it is completed, even though less of it is binding. But some recent free agency examples don’t make it look good for outside players. Ladarius Green was released after one year, and Morgan Burnett is heading that way too.