Many fans approached the 2020 season as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ last best hope of winning a Super Bowl in the near future. While the aging of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a big part of that, it was also due, among other things, to the expected heavy losses via free agency this offseason, which we have already seen.
So far, they have lost Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, Matt Feiler, and Tyson Alualu in free agency. They have also had to release Steven Nelson and Vince Williams, while fiscally benefitting from the retirements of Maurkice Pouncey and Vance McDonald. They are bound to lose at least one of James Conner and Alejandro Villanueva, as well.
Such heavy losses take a toll on a team, not just on the field but off it as well. You have probably seen some of the messages posted by current Steelers about watching their now former teammates find new opportunities.
One of those who did re-sign, Cameron Sutton, talked about losing those players from this locker room and what it means to be a part of this group, which he expects guys like Hilton and Alualu to bring to their new teams.
“Nothing but love, and over-excited for those guys leaving in free agency”, he said during an Instagram live chat with Missi Matthews on the team’s account, sharing fan-submitted questions. “Everything that we’ve built in Pittsburgh, they’re gonna take that wherever they go, respectively, and look to continue to build off of that”.
“That’s just the brand, the character of the guys that we all know”, he added. “We know the guys that left in free agency, the character of those guys, how they approach the game, how they approach business, and just the type of people they are. Class A people, all across the board. That makes it all the more enjoyable and just brings excitement out every time you go to work and just stepping out on the field with those guys”.
Another part of the Steelers’ culture is the ‘next man up’ credo, and Sutton will be one of them this year, as he will be working double duty to fill the shoes of both Nelson and Hilton, assuming that the team does not add a full-time slot defender between now and September.
But it cannot be overlooked that Pittsburgh has lost a lot of respected voices in the locker room in recent months, whether it’s Pouncey or Williams or Hilton or McDonald. It’s hard enough to fill roles on the field, but the off-field component is not easy to account for, either.