The news that the Pittsburgh Steelers have cut Willie Colon is now as old as it has been expected. Just because it was an anticipated move does mean that the decision to cut Colon was the right one.
To be certain, the case for cutting Willie Colon was strong. After all, Colon:
- Spent all of 2010 on injured reserve
- Had a 2011 season lasted all of one game
- Finished 2012 on, you guessed it, on injured reserve
Back of the envelop calculations show the Steelers paying Colon a million dollars per game played over the past three years. Clearly management is looking to cut its losses and move on.
However evidence indicates that the decision on the South Side may not have been as cut and dried as it appears.
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported that two weeks prior to free agency’s start, the Steelers assured Willie Colon’s agent Joe Linta that they had no plans to cut the guard. Of course the Steelers went out and cut Colon, just had been rumored late in the season.
- What happened?
Steel Curtain Rising has no sources, but it’s not too hard to speculate:
- The Steelers expected to come to an agreement with James Harrison
- When they didn’t, the Steelers cut Harrison freeing up extra, unexpected cap space
- The extra cap space allowed them to resign Ramon Foster
Kevin Colbert had said that players like Ramon Foster would be allowed to test the market – but the Steelers signed him before free agency began. Foster’s signing make Colon expendable.
Cause for Buyer’s Remorse on Colon?
The case for cutting Colon was strong, however there were both football and business reasons for keeping him.
- First, when healthy, Colon was the Steelers best lineman. Guard was Willie Colon’s natural position, and after he settled in there he was the ass-kicker that the Steelers have been needing on the offensive line.
Beyond that, Colon was far from the only offensive lineman to be hit by the injury bug over the past several seasons. Even if the Steelers were projecting Ramon Foster and David DeCastro as their starter guards, Willie Colon had enough position flexibility to make him an option at both guard and tackle.
- Injuries have plagued the Steelers at offensive line since 2008 and the wisdom of carrying 6 starter capable offensive lineman into the regular season is self evident.
Another argument in favor of keeping Colon was the fact that he’d given the Steelers a home town discount, agreeing to take three million less to stay in Pittsburgh then the Chicago Bears were offering.
- How willing will others be to offer similar home town discounts in the future?
There’s no way to know, but cutting another lineman two years into a long term deal isn’t the way nurture the spirit that leads to hometown discounts.
Should The Steelers Have Taken Their Medicine?
The Steelers designated Willie Colon as a post-June 1st cut. This allows him to sign with another team, but the Steelers are required to carry his salary against the salary cap until June first.
- In doing this they can split the dead money penalty between 2013 and 2014.
Perhaps this was a necessity. Perhaps the Steelers cap situation is so dire that they’ll need this money to sign their draft picks.
But given the massive restructurings Pittsburgh has been doing year in and year out, it is fair to ask if the Steelers wouldn’t have been wiser to simply take their medicine now, and absorb Colon’s dead-money hit in 2012.
At the end of the day, all of these are nothing more than academic questions – the Steelers cut Willie Colon and they are splitting the dead money hit over 2013 and 2014.
But from where Steel Curtain Rising sits, both moves appear to be mistakes.