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 Mark Barron be a starter for the Steelers throughout the life of his two-year contract?
The Steelers have signed exactly three outside free agents to deals totaling and average of more than $5 million per season in their entire history. Two of them were signed this offseason in Steven Nelson at cornerback and Mark Barron at inside linebacker.
In spite of the fact that they gave Barron a two-year contract worth a total of $12 million, however, the Steelers are still anticipated to heavily target the inside linebacker position in the draft, with the possibility of them even trading up in the first round to get one very open.
Part of the reason that the team made this move is a reaction to last offseason in which they realize that they did not do enough to address the position, only going out and signing Jon Bostic while hoping that the depth in the draft would suffice to allow one of the top inside linebackers to fall to them in the first round.
That plan fizzled out, so now, as they head into the 2019 NFL Draft with the 20th-overall pick, they have both Barron and Bostic—though not L.J. Fort—to mix and match next to Vince Williams. In other words, it shouldn’t be as damaging if they miss out on a Devin Bush as it was a year ago.
Here’s the thing, however; though Barron was signed to a $6 million per year average contract, his cap hit for 2019 is below $4 million. His cap his for 2020 is over $8 million, with a base salary of $4.5 million and a signing bonus proration of $2.875 million.
It’s easy to get the sense that this is a contract not dissimilar to the one they signed Flozell Adams to in 2010, a two-year, $7.5 million deal in which the first-year cap hit was $2.5 million and the second-year $5 million. They give themselves a year to find an alternative, and if they do, they can move on by releasing the player. That’s typically not how the team operates, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.