On free agency: “One player away” is the biggest myth in football

Alas, over a week has passed since the start of free agency in the NFL, and as expected, the Pittsburgh Steelers made no big-name signings. Business as usual for a Steel City offseason.

Even though fans, and analysts alike, know and have known how the Steelers do things regarding free agency, it seems like everyone still acts surprised when they stick to their guns – especially this year. After all, Pittsburgh has a decent amount of cap space if they wanted to make a big move or two.

So, why did the Steelers choose to not pursue any high-priced free agents, particularly at the cornerback position? I’ll tell you why: Because one player never makes the difference.  There’s no such thing as being “one player away” from a Super Bowl unless that player is an elite franchise quarterback, and there’s no logic behind grossly overpaying for the services of players who aren’t elite.

I promise you, Dre Kirkpatrick wasn’t leading Pittsburgh to the promised land. There’s far too many variables within an NFL game and within the workings of a defense to believe that one player is the difference between winning and losing. That’s not to say one player can’t improve the overall performance of a defense or individually be an upgrade at a position. But football is the ultimate team game, and I firmly believe the only position that’s at the highest premium is quarterback.

Then there’s the coaching, the game plans, the schematics, the fit within a – system these are all variables that can’t be accounted for when a team brings in a free agent to be “the guy” until he actually hits the field. It doesn’t always work out the way the organization and the player envision.

To prove that point, think of names like Albert Haynesworth, Nnamdi Asomugha, David Boston, Alvin Harper, Larry Brown, and Neil O’Donnell among others. There’s a laundry list of big name signings with even bigger price tags that didn’t make the difference their teams thought they would.

Luckily, Pittsburgh never finds themselves having to regret tying up cap space or dead money to free agents who didn’t fit the bill. The Steelers prefer to fill needs through the draft – develop, grow, and re-sign their own players. Team building via the draft creates more of a brotherhood atmosphere, an environment of camaraderie that can’t be achieved through signing multiple free agents year in and year out.

In Pittsburgh, players are groomed to uphold a standard, and only a select few free agents have fit that mold over the years. That philosophy won’t change in 2017, just as it didn’t change in 2007, or 1997. There’s no reason to deviate from a proven way of doing things. It may be cliche, but it’s the truth.

Trust the process. Stay the course. “The Standard is the Standard.”

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