2020 Offseason Questions: Could Steelers Have Entertained Keeping Hargrave Over Heyward?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Would choosing Javon Hargrave over Cameron Heyward this offseason have been a reasonable and defensible decision for the Steelers to have made?

This is a subject that came up in the comments section recently, so I thought we could talk about it here as a community. Obviously it’s entirely hypothetical at this point, and there’s no turning back now. Hargrave has $26 million fully guaranteed reasons to be in Philadelphia for at least the next two years out of $39 million in total, so that can’t be helped.

Heyward, meanwhile, is now 31 years old and is abut to receive a whole bunch of money on a contract extension that a number of people are going to say is too much, because he’s going to be paid near the top of the market for his position, and those numbers always look like too much to some people. It will be more than $13 million per season.

If, for example, the Steelers were willing to trade Heyward (and they wouldn’t get much for him—remember, the Baltimore Ravens got Calais Campbell for a fifth) in order to remove him from the books, they could have afforded to keep the younger Hargrave around.

And with Heyward gone, Hargrave would have a lot more snaps to play. After Stephon Tuitt was injured last season, Hargrave logged about 75 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, and he could play more than that—around 80-85 percent. Hargrave is four years younger, so would likely be a more long-term investment than Heyward, going into his 10th season.

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