For the last decade and a half, the Pittsburgh Steelers have run their organization with an almost flawlessly consistent business protocol. They let their aging veterans go and replenish their roster through the draft by molding young players into stars.
The result has been two Super Bowls, three AFC Championships, and nine division titles.
Don't look now, but the Steelers just made two feel-good, fan favorite, free agent signings—which is exactly what they have never done in their last 15 years of effective personnel moves.
Sure, Antwaan Randle El might be the best fourth wide receiver in the NFL. And yes, Larry Foote turns the Steelers linebacking corps into possibly the deepest unit on the team instead of one of the most shallow—but these moves are only temporarily helpful and not geared toward the long term.
Let's first take a closer look at Randle El.
Many people—particularly Redskins fans—would like to argue that he is washed up. Perhaps he has lost his mojo, or maybe age has simply caught up with him.
Clearly, these fans haven't watched his career very closely or taken a gander at his career stat sheet.
While he was receiving more money from the Redskins owner than passes from a Redskins quarterback, he has put up almost identical numbers to those he was posting in his final two years as a Steeler.
So if production isn't the problem, what is?
Well, age for one. Randle El is 30, and for a guy whose game used to be based on acceleration and elusiveness, that's not a good sign.
Now he might be a guy who can change his game and turn into a very Hines Ward-type possession receiver, but that has yet to be seen—and if he can't, then his value will be short-lived.
The Steelers already have a good receiver who will need to be replaced in a few years—and another one of the same won't help the team much past this upcoming year.
Lastly, the one area where Randle El has tailed off since leaving Pittsburgh is punt returning—a certain need for the Steelers, who have yet to find a worthwhile returner since he left.
While some Pittsburghers might be seeing visions of No. 82 past run through their heads, they shouldn't get too carried away: He isn't what he used to be.
On to Larry Foote. Signing Foote to a long-term deal was the perfect move for the Steelers and him.
Well, at least it would have been a year ago.
During the 2009 offseason, Pittsburgh chose to sign elder MLB James Farrior to a five-year contract instead of trying to keep Foote in Pittsburgh to replace Farrior in one or two years.
Foote decided to go to Detroit to be a starter and has now come crawling back home after realizing how much losing sucks.
The problem now is the Steelers, who usually have a roster back-loaded with young, talented, and unheard-of linebackers, now have a roster full of players who have already hit their prime.
Not only is there a lack of young talent to fill the eventual voids James Harrison and Farrior will leave, but the Rooneys are now left with essentially six linebackers who have the talent and paychecks to be NFL starters.
Now it's true this isn't a problem in the uncapped 2010 season, but the Steelers have already said they are committing themselves to their own cap to avoid reckless spending.
Should Steelers fans be worried about these moves? Maybe.
If the trend of relying on veterans to fill holes instead of unsung youngsters continues, then yes. If this is a one- or two-time thing, then no—the Steelers are looking great for the next two years.
Hopefully by then, Kevin Colbert has moved back to his previous ways.