While we are only about a week and a half into the start of the new league year, the reality is that the bulk of the heavy lifting in terms of restructuring rosters with veteran talent has already taken place. Nearly all of the most significant players on the open market have already been signed, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent.
With the dust settled, the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to retain some of their most important players, such as Bud Dupree, Matt Feiler, and Mike Hilton, while losing others such as Javon Hargrave, B.J. Finney, and Mark Barron, as well as Ramon Foster. They were able to add via trade and free agency Stefen Wisniewski, Derek Watt, Chris Wormley, and, pending a physical, Eric Ebron.
Of all the moves the Steelers made, according to Pro Football Focus, the best of the past two weeks has been the signing of Wisniewski, the 31-year-old veteran offensive lineman, with over 100 starts under his belt, who has primarily been a backup in recent years. The worst move? You guessed it, they think it’s holding onto Dupree.
On Wisniewski, which is based primarily on the budget (so cheap that he doesn’t qualify for the compensatory formula):
Compared to what some teams paid for offensive guards, Pittsburgh got an absolute steal in Stefen Wisniewski, who was one of the league’s most reliable pass-blocking centers with the Raiders and Jaguars from 2012-2015 and owned an above-average pass-blocking grade in all four years with multiple seasons in the top 10. He kicked over to left guard with the Eagles in 2016 and posted back-to-back to years in the top-25 among guards before struggling in a limited role in 2018 (61st). Wisniewski joined forces with the Chiefs in 2019 and performed considerably well in his limited-turned-starting role and ended the season ranked 16th among guards in overall grade.
On Dupree (again, based on cost efficiency):
After failing to reach the top-60 in pass-rush grade in all four of his NFL seasons prior to 2019, Bud Dupree had a career year in 2019, generating a 76.3 pass-rush grade that ranked 24th among players at his position. Dupree made more impactful pays with a load of sacks and fumbles, but he wasn’t consistent on a rep-to-rep basis. After all, pressure rate is far more predictive of future performance than sack totals are, and Dupree ranked only 63rd in that category last year. In other words, this screams, “buyer beware.”
While Dupree may not be the Pro Bowler or Pro Bowl-level player you would normally expect to be fetching $16 million a year—general manager Kevin Colbert reiterated yesterday that the Steelers still plan to make him a Steeler for life—the reality of the team’s current situation is that they don’t have any other reliable options, and they also must be aware of the closing chapter they’re in at the end of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. If this year is the last best chance to win a Super Bowl in a while, and Dupree helps that, then the cap ramifications of the next few years don’t matter nearly as much.