Ample cap space won’t alter Steelers’ philosophies
I’ve always felt fortunate to have become a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers at an early age, and that appreciation has grown over the years as I came to understand the ways in which they conduct their offseason business.
The Steelers organization is revered as one of the best in all of professional sports: and for good reason. They prefer to draft, grow, and pay their own players. They are rarely big movers in free agency, and never take that route for team-building. Pittsburgh uses free agency as a means to find mid-level contributors, depth, or low-risk flyers.
That fact is common knowledge among fans, yet every offseason, some expect a change in the philosophies that have made the Steelers so successful.
To be blunt: It’s not going to happen, even with cap space to make moves in 2017.
Every free agency period, fans hop on the bandwagon as players’ names get tossed around the rumor mill whenever Pittsburgh does their due diligence. This offseason is no different, particularly regarding the cornerback position.
Dre Kirkpatrick, Stephon Gilmore, Morris Claiborne, and Prince Amukumara are among the players that were available, who would look good opposite Artie Burns: and most likely provide an immediate upgrade in the secondary.
The problem: The Steelers aren’t going to deviate from their philosophy of not overpaying for free agents.
The top of this year’s crop of free agent corners can be considered above average, but none are elite. Yet an increased salary cap, and comparable player salaries, have driven the market up, meaning teams are going to overpay for their services.
And I highly, highly doubt Pittsburgh will be one of those teams.
First, the Steelers aren’t going to throw the bank at one player, because “one player away” is a myth in terms of winning. Does anyone really think Dre Kirkpatrick, by himself, would transform Pittsburgh’s defense into one that can immediately beat Tom Brady?
It’s a knee-jerk reaction thinking one guy makes the biggest difference.
Second, the 2017 draft is a strong class for cornerbacks. It is tailor-made for Pittsburgh to find a guy to pair with Artie Burns: and at a much cheaper price tag than a free agent who isn’t elite anyway. If there was ever a draft for the Steelers to stick to their philosophy and not reach in free agency, it’s this one.
Lastly, do the names Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree, Javon Hargrave, and Sean Davis (along with Burns), mean anything to anyone? These young guys are the future core of the defense, and the Steelers like to keep their core foundation players together. The current group has the makings of one on the rise, one that could be very good in the coming years. Is it really worth it to jeopardize losing a key player down the road for a free agent corner now?
This doesn’t mean Pittsburgh should leave stones unturned. If they could sign a starting-caliber free agent corner for the right price, it makes sense. But I have a hard time believing players set to cash in on their first free agent deals would take less than what they could get somewhere else.
For these reasons and more, don’t expect the Steelers to randomly deviate from what they do so well conducting business, just because they can afford it.
Stick to the proven philosophy. The blueprint. The Steeler way.