The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The three-year, $9.75 million contract given to Derek Watt was not a wise use of salary cap resources.
Explanation: According to Art Rooney II, the Steelers may still need to restructure some contracts to get themselves into the cap situation they need to be in. So far, the only addition they have made is a fullback who plays special teams, making him the second-highest-paid player at his position in the league. They just lost their top two left guards and need a starting nose tackle as well.
Depending on the cap breakdown, Watt’s 2020 salary is going to count for at least a couple million. And he’s going to play 150-200 snaps on offense, if that, in addition to special teams, which, yes, has value, but not that kind of value.
That salary cap space is a resource that could have gone in part to retaining B.J. Finney to be their starting left guard. Instead, they’re looking at potentially moving their right tackle to left guard and adding a new starter into the lineup.
Meanwhile, they don’t have a nose tackle capable of being the starter. Daniel McCullers is on the roster, but he’s not going to be asked to play some 300-plus snaps. Both of these positions have a much bigger impact on wins and losses than a fullback.
But considering the losses of Tyler Matakevich, Anthony Chickillo, and Johnny Holton, three huge pieces of the special teams puzzle, Derek Watt’s signing is actually a very big deal for that phase of the game. And did you see what Matakevich got, anyway? Clearly, special teams has more value than many want to admit.
And the value of Watt’s contract depends entirely upon what they are looking to get out of him. There is no reason in theory that they can’t use the fullback position more, say 300 or so snaps. They had a tackle-eligible tight end play over 200 snaps last year. If they had a fullback whom they could depend upon, they wouldn’t need to rely on that more gimmicky package. Plus, Watt can run and catch, which the Steelers could use more than the Chargers did.