It seems like every year we talk about the hopes of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ latest free agent signings being more successful than the previous players that they have brought in. Pittsburgh spent big—relatively speaking—this year in free agency, so that is especially important now, all the more so in light of the fact that the players that they signed last year are already gone.
The Steelers made three additions in free agency last season. One did not have his one-year contract renewed. The other two were released. And they were, or at least were supposed to be, starters. Arguably bridge starters, but certainly players who should have made it more than one year.
The big name was of course Morgan Burnett, the former Green Bay Packers safety, who was supposed to come in and fill in at strong safety after the Steelers released Mike Mitchell, arguably their most successful of recent free agent additions.
Because of a series of injuries, Burnett struggled to get on the field for almost the entire offseason, so by the time the season opener rolled around, it was rookie Terrell Edmunds starting. Burnett started in Week Two, but suffered yet another injury that pretty much ended his ‘starting’ career in Pittsburgh.
He ended up requesting his release and the team granted it a few weeks out of the start of free agency, but he stayed in the division, signing a comparable contract with the Cleveland Browns. As for Jon Bostic, he was hoping to stick, but after signing Mark Barron in free agency and then drafting Devin Bush, that pretty much spelled his doom. Safety Nah Berhe was largely a special teams addition and ended up on injured reserve.
Pittsburgh spent more this year, signing all three of their free agents to contracts worth at least $4.5 million per season, and up to north of $8 million per season. They brought in Steven Nelson to start at cornerback, and really, if he doesn’t, then they’re going to have a major problem barring an exceptionally quick learning curve from rookie Justin Layne.
The other two free agents they signed are no longer in a position in which they have to start, but they ought to have roles all the same. Barron’s athleticism can fit in somewhere if Bush ends up starting over him. They may end up rotating the spot.
Then there’s Donte Moncrief, who could start at wide receiver, but he will compete against second-year James Washington and rookie Diontae Johnson for that designation. More likely, they will be competing for snaps rather than jobs, because all of them should play.
The Steelers turned their fortunes around with the players they have traded for with Vance McDonald and Ryan Switzer in the past two years. Will this now by the time that they improve their luck with the moves that they made in free agency?