The Pittsburgh Steelers, like most teams, prefer to do the majority of the negotiations with players under contract once they get into training camp. This year, the team has a good three or four legitimate candidates who would be up for contract extensions, but with a tight salary cap, it’s not clear how much business will take place.
The likeliest by far is Joe Haden, the 10th-year veteran cornerback who joined the Steelers in 2017 on a three-year, $27 million deal. He is now in the final year of his contract, and he confirmed at the start of training camp that the two parties have now had discussions about an extension.
The other player most likely to get one, I think, is fourth-year defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who posted six and a half sacks last season, more than double his total from his first two seasons combined. A 2016 third-round draft pick, he has lived up to the expectations the team had for him.
Which can get costly. And Hargrave already plays at a position group with two of the highest-paid players on the team in Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. Not that that should necessarily dissuade the front office from paying their best players, even if they conglomerate in one area, but the fact that he plays fewer snaps is a factor as well.
As for the player himself, he’s not sweating it right now, or so he told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review yesterday regarding his contract status.
“I really ain’t paid it no mind”, Adamski quotes the South Carolina State product as saying with respect to his contract. “I’ve just been really working on my craft and trying to get better”. He did say of himself, “I think I am a very valuable player”, and suggested that simply going about his business would help it all “take care of itself”.
Since being drafted in 2016, Hargrave has shown steady growth as both a pass rusher and a run defender, and as of last season, he began to be used much more heavily in the nickel defense when there are only two linemen on the field.
He spent much of yesterday’s practice working with Tuitt in that nickel formation, with Heyward, a veteran, getting some extra time off. “The more you can do”, Hargrave said of working in those sub-packages. The majority of his sacks from last season came from packages with two down linemen.
If the Steelers do plan to give him more time in sub-packages, which have come to make up the bulk of their snaps, then it would make more sense to try to lock him up now, which would give the team three strong pass-rushers from the inside that they can rotate. 2018 showed indications of that, but there is still room for him to get even more work.