Year after year, Pittsburgh Steelers fans clamor for the team to make some noise in free agency. They rarely do, of course, typically, in no small part because they are almost routinely tight up against the cap. But they don’t have a very good track record with the free agents that they do sign, especially in recent years.
Going back to 2016, the Steelers have signed 13 players as unrestricted free agents—note that this does not include players who were street free agents, which includes Joe Haden and Mark Barron. Of those 13, seven of them signed multi-year deals. And of those seven, only two ares expected to see a second season.
Just from last offseason alone, the Steelers released Donte Moncrief in-season after signing him to a two-year, $9 million contract. Though he was released, Barron was also signed during the free agency period. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract. He was released yesterday.
One of the only two players who has survived multiple years on a first contract, or at least is expected to, during that time period is Steven Nelson, who had a strong first season with Pittsburgh last year. He signed a three-year, $25.5 million deal, and very much earned his salary.
Jon Bostic and Morgan Burnett were the free agency signings in 2018. Bostic started for most of the year. He was released after the draft following the signing of Barron and the drafting of Devin Bush. Burnett, who lost his starting job due to injuries, requested and received his release prior to the draft after agreeing to a three-year, $14.35 million deal.
Tyson Alualu is the other free agent who initially signed a multi-year deal since 2016 who actually saw a second season, agreeing to a two-year, $6 million deal. In fact, he is about to see the second season of his second two-year deal in 2020.
But before him was Ladarius Green and Ryan Harris. Green is the most egregious, signing a four-year, $20 million deal in 2016 after Heath Miller retired. He was ultimately waived with a failed physical designation a year later, and they would have to go out and trade for Vance McDonald.
Some players did see a second season, or more, after initially signing one-year deals. Going back to 2014, that would include Arthur Moats, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Steven Johnson, and Justin Hunter. Moats and Heyward-Bey both had successful careers in Pittsburgh, signing multi-year contracts after their original deal. Johnson only saw a couple of weeks in his second season with the team.
Of the 13 unrestricted free agents that the Steelers have signed since 2016 (you can include Barron here to make it 14), only two are now still with the team, those being Alualu and Nelson. Probably something worth remembering going forward.