So far everything the Steelers have done in free agency has been by the book. Well, ok “by the book” if you channel your Ben Kenobi and agree that its “by the book from a certain point of view.” Which is to say that by signing 33 year old cornerback in the form of Patrick Peterson is not something the Steelers typically do.
But all things consider equally, the Steelers would have preferred to keep Cameron Sutton. When Cam Sutton signed with the Lions the Steelers needed a starting corner and turned to Patrick Peterson.
Ditto the signings of Elandon Roberts and Cole Holcomb – personnel moves at inside linebacker have been a staple of Steelers off seasons for the last 5 seasons. (More on that in a day or so.)
- But the Steelers decision to sign Nate Herbig is an outlier.
While it’s a given that the Steelers need depth at offensive line, those conversations had typically focused on tackle. Behind Mason Cole, James Daniels and Kevin Dotson the Steelers had J.C. Hassenauer and Kendrick Green. Guard wasn’t considered an area of need.
Yet the Steelers wasted little time in signing Nate Herbig for 2 years at 8 million dollars with Herbig getting 3 million of that in guarantees. That’s not crazy money for an NFL guard – James Daniels is going to have a cap number $11,166,666 this year, but there are certainly starting guards that make less in today’s NFL.
- That means that heading into his contract year Kevin Dotson is going to need to fight for his starting job.
The move is also the first sign of Assistant General Manager Andy Weidl’s influence. Herbig came out early from Stanford and that probably cost him getting drafted. But the Philadelphia Eagles signed him. When Joe Douglas left Philadelphia for the New York Jets he signed Herbig. And now he’s followed Weidl to Pittsburgh.
During his time in Philadelphia, Weidl developed a reputation as a personnel man who bought into the idea that football games are still won and lost at the line of scrimmage. (See the Eagle in people moving mode on short down situations in the Super Bowl.)
At 6’4” and 335 pounds, Herbig is in the 93rd percentile of offensive guards. By all accounts he’s a road grader in the run game even if his pass pro skills remain a work in progress. When asked about where he would play, Herbig quipped he’d play punter if the Steelers asked him to.
Just the attitude you’d like to see in an offensive lineman.
Cutting Them Loose – Steelers Don’t Tender RFAs
The Steelers also made another uncharacteristic, if under the radar move: They didn’t tender any of their four Restricted Free agents.
The Steelers had until 4:00 pm on Wednesday to offer tenders to J.C. Hassenauer, James Pierre, Jeremy McNichols and Steven Sims.
Most people probably don’t know who Jermey NcNicols was so that’s no surprise. Hassenauer has some starting experience, but he wasn’t much of a surprise. But Sims is their de facto 3rd wide out and James Peirre was their starting cornerback at year’s end.
So it is a bit of a surpise that Omar Khan and Mike Tomlin opted to let those guys reach the free market.
All remained unsigned at this point, so they could still remain in Pittsburgh.
Follow Steelers free agency. Visit our Steelers 2023 Free Agent tracker or click here for all Steelers 2023 free agent focus articles.