Now it starts to hurt. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall in rapid succession on days one and two of free agency. Both moves hurt the team, but both were expected.
- Day three brought the defections of Keenan Lewis to the New Orleans Saints and Ryan Mundy to the New York Giants.
Keenan Lewis’ departure was some what expected, particularly after the Steelers resigned William Gay, after William Gay’s release from Pittsburgh West, aka the Arizona Cardinals.
But it Keenan Lewis defection nonetheless hurts and hurts badly. After languishing deep down the Steelers bench in 2009 and 2010, and looking almost every part the misfit, Keenan Lewis blossomed under the tutelage of Carnell Lake.
In 2011 he rose to third down back and in 2012 he became a starter and with each week he seemed to surpass himself in his ability to defend passes. Indeed, by year’s end Lewis led the league in passes defensed.
- This is normally the kind of player the Steelers would lock up to a long term deal
But circumstances are not quite normal, Art Rooney II’s protests to the contrary.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in salary cap purgatory and are trying to avoid salary cap hell – a situation where management would be required to essentially liquate the team to stay under the cap, and their ability to offer long term, big bonus deals is limited.
By all accounts Keenan Lewis’ contract in New Orleans was not break the bank level. But the Steelers are already projecting Cortez Allen as next year’s starter and hence the team’s next big investment at corner. On the opposite side the team has big money invested in Ike Taylor, who is aging.
In a perfect world they’d lock Lewis down with an eye towards starting him and Allen in 2014 or 2015.
Instead, the Steelers calculate that the trio of Allen, Gay and Taylor can give them more bang for their salary cap buck in 2013 while hoping for the best after that.
What Mundy’s Move Means
Ryan Mundy’s decision to sign with the New York Giants was a minor surprise, but as mentioned in our free agent focus article on Ryan Mundy, its perhaps time for the Steelers to cut their losses with Mundy, who saw himself demoted behind veteran Will Allen.
The move nonetheless robs the Steelers of the final member of their 2008 Draft Class, something which Steel Curtain Rising will be focusing on in the near future.