5 Moves the Steelers Will Regret Not Making This Offseason
It is easy to second-guess the moves of your favorite NFL franchise. It appears that no matter what your favorite team does, they are typically scrutinized more closely for what they didn’t do.
The same can apply to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In what has been their most active offseason in recent memory, there still seems to be more questions than answers. Coming off of back-to-back .500 seasons, the Steelers and their fans are hungry for a turnaround.
Now, let’s not look at this as a "cup half empty" type of situation. The Steelers clearly want to win now. It makes sense with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at the peak of his career arc; they cannot let that window close.
Nevertheless, is there more the Steelers could have done up till this point? Let’s take a look at five moves that didn’t happen, which could come back to bite the Steelers during the season.
Not Signing Alterraun Verner
One of the most significant areas of need for the Steelers this offseason was the defensive secondary. Cornerback play dwindled as the season went on, and even in wins, the defensive backs struggled.
When the offseason began, there were rumors that the Steelers were interested in signing Alterraun Verner. The Steelers had plenty of cap space and definitely showed interest.
However, when it was all said and done, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the bidding war. The Buccaneers signed Verner to a four-year, $26.5 million contract including $14 million guaranteed. Big money, no doubt, but Verner can be a game-changing cornerback and would have added significant talent to the Steelers secondary.
Instead, the Steelers have stood pat, adding no starting-caliber help at cornerback, and will need to focus closely on the position much more closely in the draft.
Not Bringing Al Woods Back
To an outsider, this might not seem like a huge move, but letting defensive lineman Al Woods sign with the Tennessee Titans could be one they wish they had to do over. Woods’ play improved as the season progressed, and with that, his snaps. And it was not by chance that in the second half of the season, when Woods was playing more, the Steelers went 6-2.
To cushion the blow of losing Woods, the Steelers signed Cam Thomas to a two-year, $4 million contract. To contrast, Woods signed with the Titans for two years and $5 million. Is that extra potential $1 million worth it knowing you are getting an improving player who is already very familiar with the system? Logic says maintaining consistency is key to all other things being equal.
Not Re-Signing Jerricho Cotchery
It was understood that they Steelers were set to lose at least one free-agent wide receiver this offseason. With both Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery up for new contracts, there was no chance both could return.
However, after reeling in 46 catches, 10 of which went for touchdowns, it seemed Cotchery would be a key priority. However, the Steelers opted not to try to top the two-year, $5 million dollar offer the Carolina Panthers gave him, and he was lost.
Yes, the Steelers did sign Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey to help cushion the blow. However, much like with Woods, bringing in new players for old brings up the question of team chemistry and getting everyone on the same page. Roethlisberger and Cotchery found a real synergy, especially near the end zone. Something like that is difficult to reconcile for the sake of saving some money.
Not Releasing Ike Taylor
Don’t get me wrong, it was great that cornerback Ike Taylor was willing to accept a pay cut for the upcoming season. It is evident that Taylor wants to be on this team and finish his career in Pittsburgh.
However, there is a school of thought that says simply by keeping Taylor on the roster for one more season, the Steelers put themselves a season behind in re-building the secondary. Much will depend on which Taylor the Steelers get. Will it be the one who shut down wide receivers in the first half of the season, or the one who gave up too many big plays in the second?
If the Steelers get the first-half Taylor, this issue becomes a non-factor. Nonetheless, if Taylor doesn’t play better, the Steelers are going to pay $8 million for a nickel cornerback. Especially if it means a rookie could be pressed into starting duty to replace him.
Not Leaving Darrius Heyward-Bey Unemployed
When the Steelers brought in Lance Moore to play wide receiver, there was excitement. Moore fits the mold of exactly what the Steelers love in a receiver. Adding Moore gives them that complimentary wide receiver to pair with Antonio Brown.
The signing also gives second-year receiver Markus Wheaton a chance to slide into that third wide receiver spot and get some meaningful playing time.
However, things all went wrong when the Steelers decided to get their big wide receiver by signing Darrius Heyward-Bey. In 2013, Heyward-Bey was only able to muster 29 catches before being benched, but he did manage to drop nine passes during that time as well.
The logic behind Heyward-Bey is that if the Steelers don’t get the wide receiver target that they are looking for, Heyward-Bey would constitute him. This would be unfortunate since he isn’t a very good football player. Best-case scenario is the Steelers do get a big receiving target in the draft and are able to cut him loose prior to the start of the season.
All contract information courtesy of overthecap.com.