Successfully managing free agency and the salary cap in the NFL comes down to getting the most bang for your buck. The Steelers had one of their most active off seasons ever in terms of free agent signings, and at the quarter point of their season, it’s time to do some comparisons.
Steelers Free Agent Quarterly Assessment: Wide Receivers
The Steelers biggest off season risk was their decision to let two of Ben Roethlisberger’s top three targets depart, as they did when Emmanuel Sanders left for Denver and Jerricho Cotchery left for Carolina.
Sanders is thriving under Peyton Manning, already projecting out at over 100 catches for the year. Cotchery is doing well, but has yet to score a touchdown, something he did with regularity in Pittsburgh.
This is one case where numbers don’t quite tell the tale. Markus Wheaton has proven to be an effective compliment to Antonio Brown and at a far lower price tag. Justin Brown has been OK, but again, the numbers neither show his end zone drop nor his fumble.
Lance Moore is just working into the line up, and if the Pittsburgh press corps has anything to say bout it, he’ll see more time soon. Darrius Heyward-Bey has mostly played on special team, but did draw a pass interference penalty that helped the Steelers get going vs. Carolina.
Steelers Free Agent Quarterly Assessment: Outside Linebacker
The Steelers took another big risk here in parting with LaMarr Woodley. While Jarvis Jones is hurt and Jason Worilds hasn’t done much to impress, it is hard to argue this decision, based solely on the numbers. Both men have out performed Woodley, who admittedly is playing a new position, as has Arthur Moats. James Harrison’s name appears for continuity’s sake, as he has only been around for 1 game.
Steelers Free Agent Quarterly Assessment: : Running Back
This one is incredibly easy. LeGarrette Blount has performed exceptionally well, while Jonathan Dwyer was doing OK, before he was suspended….
Steelers Free Agent Quarterly Assessment: Defensive Line
This is one is tricker than the numbers suggest. Ziggy Hood isn’t doing anything to impress anyone, even in practice, down in Jacksonville. Al Woods numbers in Tennessee look pedestrian, but they’re better than Cam Thomas.
Again, Cam Thomas struggled particularly during the first two games of the season, and his being out of position prevented others such as Cameron Heyward and/or Steve McLendon from being where they were supposed to be. None of that is reflected in the numbers. So its hard to say if the Steelers are getting comparable value for the $500,000 that they saved by choosing Thomas over Woods.
Steelers Free Agent Quarterly Assessment: Safety
The Steelers started free agency with a bang, but signing Michael Mitchell on the first day to a large, although not excessive, deal. The Steelers have a history of free agent signings at safety, and of course the man Mitchell replaced, Ryan Clark, arrived as a free agent.
Mitchell however, has not delivered much on the field, other than perhaps penalties. While he has played better during the second two weeks, he has not yet provided an upgrade to Clark, who seems to be holding his own in Washington, if the numbers are to be trusted.
Steelers Free Agent Quarterly Assessment: Inside Linebacker
The story of Larry Foote is perhaps as a little bit of a shocker. The Steelers struggled mightily in Foote’s absence, but when he was cut, it was a ho-hum non-story, and this was long before it was clear that Sean Spence would play again and/or Ryan Shazier would be drafted.
The numbers show that Foote is in fact playing very well for Pittsburgh West, and certainly has something left in the tank. Ryan Shazier hasn’t done poorly, but hasn’t made any splash plays. Spence only has one game as a starter so it’s a little too early to judge.
Quarterly Reports to Continue as Time Allows
Steel Curtain Rising will continue to do these “Steelers Free Agent Quarterly Reports” as time allows. It will be interesting to see how the numbers comparison evolves over the season.