The Pittsburgh Steelers stepped a bit outside of familiar territory this offseason in, essentially, participating in the primary portion of free agency in which seemingly every other team typically engages. In total, to date, they have signed three outside free agents to two- or three-year contracts that total in the ballpark of $45 million.
That wasn’t necessarily the ‘plan’ for the offseason, according to General Manager Kevin Colbert, who spoke with Missi Matthews for the team’s website yesterday in an exclusive interview. “Signing three veteran players is a little unusual for us, but we had the cap flexibility to do that type of stuff this year”, he said.
The Steelers first struck a deal with former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson for three years, worth $25.5 million over the life of the contract. This deal was reported even before the official start of free agency, marking the first time since the ‘legal tampering window’ has been put into place that the team has been known to have reached an agreement with a player before they would officially be able to sign a contract.
It wasn’t long after that that the team found its second free agent signing, bringing in former Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Donte Moncrief on a two-year deal that was worth $9 million in total. That is less than the one-year contract he played under in Jacksonville last season.
Finally—at least to date—the Steelers found help at inside linebacker with the addition of Mark Barron, who has spent his last several seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. The former safety agreed to a two-year contract worth $12 million and gives the team a legitimate starting option should they fail again to land a player at the position that they covet in the draft.
“When it made sense, we just added players”, Colbert said of the process. “We didn’t go into it with any goal of signing one, two, or three” free agents. “We just always kind of let it unfold and that’s how it ended up being this year”.
While three free agents is not the most the team has ever added in a single free agency period, the value of the contracts is certainly beyond the norm of what we typically see. The per-year averages of the deals Nelson and Barron signed rank second and third, respectively, in team history for outside free agent signings, the top being Joe Haden’s three-year, $27 million contract.
The team can theoretically continue to add additional players through free agency, but they will have to be careful about the deal they reach, because it could cost them their projected third-round compensatory draft pick they anticipate getting back for Le’Veon Bell.