Steel City Underground presents our 2019 Steelers Recall: a look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.
Nearly a year ago the NFL free agency period was beginning and rumors were rampant about what the Steelers would do.
Never big players or spenders, the team had some immediate needs. They traded Antonio Brown a day before the signing period started, plus failed to re-sign Le’Veon Bell.
This left many to speculate if they would sign a receiver or running back, as well as fill other holes as the organization continued to struggle in their search to replace Ryan Shazier as well as draft, trade, or otherwise acquire a quality cornerback to play opposite Joe Haden.
The Steelers would open free agency with some higher-profile-than-usual signings. A name that wasn’t thrown around analysts’ “top” lists, former Chiefs CB Steven Nelson, signed with the Steelers for a three-year, $25.5 million contract.
Moncrief had seen success with the Indianapolis Colts but languished with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018. He would sign a healthy two-year deal worth $2 million.
The Steelers weren’t finished yet, as a day later they would bring DT Daniel McCullers back on a two-year agreement before waiting almost a full business week for their next announcement, which would help alleviate some of the concerns with the inside linebacker situation.
The LA Rams released former safety/linebacker Mark Barron on March 5th, one week prior to the start of free agency. He immediately became linked with the Steelers as an obvious fit, but it wasn’t until the move was officially made six days into free agency that fans pinched themselves at the announcement.
Barron’s deal would be a two-year contract worth $12 million.
Unbelievably, the Steelers would be bigger spenders than anyone would’ve imagined, addressing all three of their top needs right away. In previous seasons, they rarely dipped their toe into the free agency pool, often waiting weeks for bargain signings.
2019 would change the trend with Nelson, Moncrief, and Barron all being signed to multi-year deals.
As for how those signings turned out...
Nelson would go on to become one of the highest-rated cornerbacks in the entire league; even higher than teammate Joe Haden and on par with Patriots All-Pro Stephon Gilmore.
Moncrief suffered a hand injury in training camp and would never recover. Several key dropped passes along with L.J. Fort's release from the Eagles put the Steelers in a tough position with the league's compensatory draft pick formula regarding free agent additions and losses. Due to "losing" Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers were calculated to receive a compensatory pick in the third round, but Fort's release from the Eagles meant that Moncrief counted against the formula and the Steelers would've forfeited a potential extra third round pick if they kept Moncrief beyond Week 8.
He would be released on November 2nd.
Barron would go on to be a key component on the Steelers defense, playing alongside rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush and also being used in subpackages in pass coverage. He would quietly play nearly 70% of all defensive snaps while finishing third on the team in combined tackles and adding an interception and three sacks.