How does the song go, “I don’t know why you’re saying goodbye I’m saying hello?” One can imagine bars of that classic Lennon and McCartney ditty are being hummed by Mike Munchak and Todd Haley on the South Side on an active day in free agency that saw the Steelers sign Ryan Harris while losing Kelvin Beachum to the Jaguars.
- The Denver Broncos drafted Ryan Harris in the 3rd round of the 2007 NFL Draft – seven slots before the Steelers took Matt Spaeth.
As a rookie, Harris appeared in 11 games for the Broncos, but never started. That changed in his second year, where he started 16 games in 2008 and 8 games in 2009 before getting injured. From there Harris started 10 of 11 games in 2010, but he left as a free agent for the Houston Texans.
Ryan Harris played in 32 games over two years for the Texans, but only made five starts in Houston, but Andy Reid made him a starter for a year in 2014 with the Kansas City Chiefs. In 2015 Harris returned to the Mile High City, where he would split his time between left and right tackle, starting in 15 of 16 games.
Ryan Harris will be 31 this year and the Steelers reportedly signed the offensive tackle to a two year 3.9 million dollar contract.
Bye, Bye Beachum
One of the bigger questions the Steelers faced heading into free agency was the fate of free agent offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum. The Steelers liked Beachum and wanted to resign him last summer, but the two sides failed to reach an agreement. Initally, it looked like Beachum’s decision not to test the market might cost him, as he tore his ACL at mid season.
- However, the Jacksonville Jaguars literally have salary cap space to burn, and clearly were ready to offer more than Pittsburgh.
The Steelers did want Beachum back, but they did not want to pay him premium left tackle starter money to Beachum, instead hoping to sign him to a one year deal. That didn’t happen which reveals something important about how the Steelers see their offensive line.
Starting Left Tackle is Villanueva’s Job to Loose
The Steelers telegraphed their hand early in free agency when they opted to prioritize resigning as opposed to offering a competitive deal to Beachum. Guards make less than tackles, and Ramon Foster is healthy so there was no surprise there, but until it happened there was a chance it would not.
Word leaked that the Steelers wanted to bring Beachum back on a “Prove it” deal, but at the same time the Steelers worked out Seattle’s Russell Okung and San Diego’s Chris Hairston. Okung was wowed by the Steelers Lombardi collection and the Steelers made him an offer, but it was not strong enough for him to accept it. What to make of this?
- The Steelers envision Alejandro Villanueva as their starting left tackle for 2016 and beyond.
Villanueva took over the role in mid-2015 when Bechum got hurt, and while his game had flaws, he played well. The Steelers interest in bringing Beachum back fueled speculation that Mike Tomlin and/or Mike Munchak didn’t think that Villuenva was ready to become the full time starter.
Ryan Harris’ contract averages at just below 2 million per year, which puts him on the fringe of starting left tackle money, indicating that the Steelers see Harris as an insurance policy, not as a starter.
The Steelers are comfortable going into 2016 with Alejandro Villanueva as their starter. Mike Adams will also return to provide depth at offensive tackle.