The Pittsburgh Steelers were over the cap just days before the new league year last month. And yet they still managed to sign three players from other teams as unrestricted free agents and traded for another, a combined cap hit of $8,953,833, which after displacement added a total of $6,318,833 to their salary cap in 2020.
That’s not bad at all considering they also squeezed in a franchise tag worth nearly $16 million, essentially fitting over $20 million in player salary through just those five players alone while beginning the process with negative cap space.
And yet they still managed to add a relatively ‘large’ free agent addition, at least by their standards, agreeing to a two-year, $12 million deal with tight end Eric Ebron, which comes with a first-year cap hit of just $3.5 million. Not only was the first-year affordability a surprise, so was, to the Steelers, the opportunity.
“I would say some things turned up that were a little unexpected that maybe we didn’t feel like we’d be able to do going in”, team president Art Rooney II said ahead of last night’s draft. “Signing Ebron, I think, was a little bit of a surprise. We didn’t expect him to be there at that point, so it was nice to get him”.
The addition of Ebron pairs him with Vance McDonald, an eighth-year veteran who is going into his fourth season with the Steelers. Both are coming off of disappointing seasons in 2019, however, after setting career-highs in 2018.
The Steelers may have been a lot more likely to be interested in re-signing Nick Vannett, for whom they gave up a fifth-round pick during a September trade, had Ebron not been made available to them, but chances are that worked for the best, as Vannett didn’t sound as though he particularly enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh anyway, and his ceiling appeared to be as an average to below-average number two tight end.
With McDonald and Ebron in tow, however, the Steelers were able to eliminate the tight end position from their draft needs board, amid a week draft class for the position, and in a year in which their draft picks are rather limited.
And while Pittsburgh appreciates having Ebron, the feeling is mutual. After reading what Rooney said about him, the tight end responded on Twitter. “I’m thankful Mr. Rooney”, he wrote. “My heart is full to be a Steeler and I can’t wait to cause Havoc, period”.
I’m thankful Mr. Rooney My heart is full to be a Steeler and I can’t wait to cause Havoc, period. https://t.co/oNDLLZnC8R
— Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) April 23, 2020
The good kind of havoc, of course, one hopes.