Wednesday, March 14 marked the beginning of the new league year. How did you celebrate? There was no NFL New Years Rockin Eve with Ryan Seacrest but there were many developments. Let’s take a look at what’s going on with the Steelers with these questions:
1) What does the new league year mean?
It means teams had to be under the salary cap by that date and the Steelers accomplished that by releasing some players. They released safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden along with cornerback William Gay. Mitchell and Gay were expected but Golden was a surprise. The moves enabled the Steelers to save $7.2 million in cap space and they can create more space by restructuring contracts. Now they should have the ability to sign players in free agency. About that..
2) Why don’t the Steelers get free agents?
The new league year also means teams can acquire free agents and the first few days of free agency have been very busy for many teams, just not the Steelers. The Steelers are always quiet in the first few days of free agency while other teams make big signings. Why is that? For one thing, the Steelers usually don’t have a lot of cap space to make big offers.
Another reason is a team philosophy that they prefer drafting and developing their own players. You can’t blame them as they have a few successes with free agents (James Farrior, Ryan Clark, Kevin Greene, Jeff Hartings) and many failures (remember Ladarius Green?)
3) There’s nobody to play safety! What do they do now??
Not panic, for starters. Just because the Steelers don’t make huge signings in free agency doesn’t mean they do nothing. Remember last year when they acquired Joe Haden and Tyson Alualu during and J.J. Wilcox and Vance McDonald via trades?
There’s still many lower cost free agents out there, then there’s the draft. Look for the Steelers to draft a safety and inside linebacker in the first few rounds of the draft.
4) Who will the Steelers draft in the first round?
Here’s who the latest mock drafts say the Steelers will take:
Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Louisville: Really? With the desperate need for inside linebacker and safety, would they really draft a quarterback when Ben Roethlisberger said he would play at least 2 more years?
Ronnie Harrison, Safety, Alabama: It’s very possible the top four inside linebackers are off the board by the time the Steelers pick at 28. Harrison is physical and has a good combination of size and speed. Keep in mind the Steelers hired Karl Dunbar, who was the defensive line coach at Alabama.
Leighton Vander Esch, Inside Linebacker, Boise State: the Steelers will most likely take a linebacker in the first round and if it’s not Rashaan Evans of Alabama, it will be Vander Esch, who’s big and athletic. Malik Jefferson of Texas is another possibility.