Steelers Roster Moves

Steelers roster moves refers to all of the moves the Steelers make with players during the off-season. This includes the team resigning players, signing free agents, draft picks and in and out-of-season trades.

,

With the Salary Cap Cleaned Up, The Steelers Have Options

For some reason the Steelers salary cap situation has always been one of my favorite things to look into. During the mid-2000’s the team was constantly restructuring contracts to keep their salary cap in line. Now, they have seen many of those large veteran contracts come off of the books and they are in a very good position with the cap. In fact, the Steelers currently sit over $16 million under the cap. That gives them plenty of options as they enter the final months of the off-season.

The Steelers, typically speaking, do not have negotiations during the season. They try to get all of their contracts finalized before the start of the regular season. That gives the team, and any players in the position of signing an extension, only about two more months to get things done. With a $16 million free on the books for the upcoming season the Steelers will definitely sign a couple of players to extensions before the end of the pre-season.

Lock-Up Key Players

There are three players I expect to have new contracts before the start of the 2017 season. The first is Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt was drafted to give the Steelers defensive line a boost and he has done just that. Actually, Tuitt has been so good that it will be hard to sign him to a cap friendly deal. Even so, keeping Tuitt and Cameron Heyward together makes a lot of sense for the Steelers. They give the team a very solid defensive front and should make life a lot easier on the Steelers young outside linebackers.

Next, I expect the team to focus on corner Ross Cockrell. Cockrell has been a solid corner for the Steelers since coming over from Buffalo. One of the biggest factors in keeping Cockrell around is, despite having three years of NFL experience, he is only 25. It is hard to find It is hard to find good young corners, but the Steelers seem to have one in Cockrell. Locking him in on a team friendly deal would be a smart move this off-season.

Finally, I think that the Steelers will try and come to terms with Le’Veon Bell on a long-term contract. There has been a lot of talk about what the team should do with Bell. Running backs aren’t valued as much as they used to be. There is also the fact that Bell has dealt with suspensions. One more issue and Bell would face a year-long suspension. Then, there is the fact that Bell may be the most dynamic offensive player in the NFL. Keeping a player of his ability around is something the Steelers would like to do. The only question is how much money is Bell looking for.

Front-Loaded Contract Extension

Depending on who the Steelers decide to sign to extensions will determine what they can do with the cap. If they only choose to sign one or two players to extensions they could look to front-load a deal. For example, if they wanted to sign Bell to a four-year deal worth say $48 million, which would be $12 million annually, they could give him $20 million in year one. He already is counting $12 million against the cap so that would still leave the team with $8 million in cap space. It would also mean that Bell’s final three years would only count an average of $9.3 million against the cap saving the team some money in those next three years for other spots.

Front-loading a contract is something that teams will do when they have excess cap space, similar to the position the Steelers are in now. Front-loading and back-loading contracts, however, both come with concerns. Back-loading can cause a team to be paying too much for a player later in their career. While with front-loading, there is always the concern that a player may become “lazy” following the big payday.

Many players have seen their production fall off after receiving their first big contract. That could be age, other teams focusing on stopping them, but most believe that it has to do with work ethics dipping. Players work hard to get a big contact, but once they are being paid big money what is the motivation? If they struggle to answer that question the contract could turn into a problem.

Salary Cap Carryover

NFL teams are also allowed to carryover a salary cap surplus. That means if the Steelers are unable to agree to terms on any extensions they would be given $16 million extra on top of next year’s salary cap number. That also gives them plenty of options. They could use that surplus to give negotiations one more try. Or, they could use that money to go after replacements for impending free agents that they don’t think they will be able to retain.

Estimated Value of The Steelers Impending Free Agents

Le’Veon Bell:

Le’Veon Bell is currently on the franchise tag, which will pay him $12 million for the 2017 season. That will also make him the highest paid running back by over $4 million. The Steelers will be using the biggest running back contracts on the market to set Bell’s value. LeSean McCoy is the second highest paid running back at $8 million a year. That is where the Steelers will want this contract to be.

Bell is the most valuable running back in the NFL. That will make him the highest paid as well. I see something in the five-year $55-60 million range, which makes me happy he will be around, but worries me as running back contracts rarely end well.

Stephon Tuitt:

Estimating value for a 3-4 defensive end is difficult. They often get listed with all defensive ends, but a 3-4 end is much different than a 4-3 end. For example, JJ Watt and Tuitt have different roles on their teams. Even so, Tuitt will be looking for a big pay day. Cameron Heyward signed a five-year $59 million contract in 2015. That will probably be around what Tuitt will be asking for, but the Steelers will need to try and get him on a deal in the average annual range of $7-8 million rather than $10 million.

Something around four-years $32-36 million is what I would expect.

Ross Cockrell:

Yes, Cockrell has been a starter for the Steelers, but he won’t be getting starting corner money. Instead I expect the Steelers to look in the range of what they are paying William Gay. A contract that averages $2.5-3 million. The Steelers can hope to lock up Cockrell now and hope he continues to improve. If they can lock him up now they may end up getting good value in the final years of the contract.

Three-years at $8-9 million would be a great deal for both sides.

Image result for alejandro villanuevaAlejandro Villanueva –

Villanueva has played well for the Steelers, but I’m still not sure if I would give him an extension this summer. The Steelers still hold his rights for another year and can wait to sign him until next summer. The left-tackle position is tough. Food for thought: Kelvin Beachum is getting paid $8 million per year. So, if you want Villanueva on an extension that will be the starting point.

If they choose to do it I would expect the max to be $8 million a year. Maybe three-years at $24 million. I’m not sure I would go any higher or longer than that until Villanueva has played more.

,

Steelers Add Stafford; Is There Something We Don’t Know About the Steelers Safeties?

Steelers Sign Free Agent Daimion Stafford

Image result for daimion staffordThe Pittsburgh Steelers have signed free agent safety Daimion Stafford. Stafford started his NFL career in 2013 as a seventh-round pick of the Tennessee Titans. He has played for the Titans in, mainly, a back-up role. Since entering the league Stafford has played in 62 games and has made eight starts.

Stafford, who was an unrestricted free agent, should be looked at as mainly a depth piece for the Steelers. There has been a lot of talk about the Steelers secondary this off-season and this is another move to bring competition into training camp.

Safety Depth Chart

Sean Davis and Mike Mitchell are still atop the safety depth chart at this time. Davis, who played very well as a rookie a season ago, will likely hold his spot for many years to come. As for Mitchell, there has been some talk this off-season about how much longer he will last in Pittsburgh. Mitchell does carry a decently sized cap number and the Steelers could look to move to a cheaper option. Perhaps not this off-season, but at the end of the season it is a real possibility.

Behind Mitchell and Davis the Steelers have a few veteran back-ups. Jordan Dangerfield, who has been with the Steelers since 2014, and Robert Golden, who is entering his sixth season with the team, will both be in the mix. Also on the roster are first-year player Jacob Hagen and undrafted rookie free agent Terrish Webb. Daimion Stafford will now join that group as they battle it out for the back-up spots behind Davis and Mitchell.

Is There Something We Don’t Know

Image result for sean davis steelersTime for the conspiracy theory. Sean Davis had off-season shoulder surgery and is currently sitting out of OTAs, which is, admittedly, not a big deal. If, however, it takes him longer than expected to return from surgery this could become a big headline in Pittsburgh. As for his counterpart, Mike Mitchell, there were reports that Mitchell was drug tested after working out with James Harrison earlier this off-season.

Now, if anything was to come from that drug test we would probably already know about it. As we all know, though, sometimes things get a little weird in the NFL and anything could happen. Now, assuming the signing of Stafford was in response to other news would also assume that the Steelers know something we don’t, which is not impossible. If it is true we would probably hear something official soon.

Let’s hope this move was just a lack of faith in Golden and Dangerfield and not anything else, but with Davis sidelined there has to be a little fear. As for the other option Golden has had five years to show what he can do. As for Dangerfield, he is a good special teams player, but the team hasn’t shown much faith in using him in the secondary. A guy like Stafford, who comes with experience, could be a replacement over either of those two players.

Other Roster Moves Today

The Steelers also re-signed long-snapper Kameron Canaday. Canaday will be brought in to compete with sixth-round pick Colin Holba. The NFL is all about competition and bringing Canaday back assures that Holba will have to win his job during camp rather than have it handed to him.

To make room on the roster the Steelers released punter A.J. Hughes.

,

Steelers Cut Tight-End Ladarius Green After Failed Physical, Sign Running Back

Last off-season Ladarius Green was the Steelers number-one target. They signed him to a four-year contract to have him replace Heath Miller as the team’s new tight-end. Unfortunately, injuries kept Green from being a consistent contributor and recently put his 2017 season into doubt.

Image result for ladarius greenThose injury issues also caused Green to fail his physical and he was released. Green will have a cap hit on the team for about $3.5 million in 2017, but this move also clears $2.6 million in cap space and saves the Steelers cap room for next season.

Via Steelers.com: Green played in six games in 2016, starting two of them. He had 18 receptions for 304 yards and a touchdown. His best game with the Steelers was against the Giants in Week 13, when he had six receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown.

What This Means for the Steelers

With Green off the roster the Steelers will turn to Jesse James as their starting tight-end. Xavier Grimble should also receive more reps at tight-end as a pass-catching tight-end. As far as blocking tight-ends go the Steelers resigned David Johnson, who spent the last two seasons with the Chargers. Johnson is a solid blocker and should get time as a third tight-end; mainly in blocking situations.

This move also means that players like Phazahn Odom and Scott Orndorff, both signed as undrafted rookies, have a better chance of making the Steelers 53-man roster.

Steelers Sign Terrell Watson

In a connected move the Steelers signed running-back Terrell Watson. Watson has been bouncing around the NFL since 2015. During college Watson broke every rushing record at Azusa Pacific with 79 rushing touchdowns and over 6000 yards rushing.

 

,

Steelers Release Long-Time Long-Snapper Greg Warren

When the Steelers drafted a long-snapper in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft it spelled the end for Greg Warren. Perhaps now we know the reason why the Steelers went so hard after Colin Holba. Greg Warren was released today with the designation of a failed physical. We can assume the Steelers knew this was coming and took to the draft to find their replacement.

Image result for greg warren steelersWarren’s Comments:

“I would first like to thank the Steelers organization, coaches and training staff for their help and advice over the last few weeks,” said Warrenia Steelers.com. “I had full intentions of playing this upcoming season, but in light of new information I’ve recently received from my doctors relating to a past injury, it has been determined that trying to compete in the 2017 season may be a risk to my long-term health. After discussing this with the Steelers, we have decided it would be in everyone’s best interest to release me at this point.”

Warren’s Tenure with the Team

Warren signed with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2005. He was a part of three Super Bowl teams and won two Super Bowls with the team in 2006 and 2008. He was one of only three players remaining from the teams Super Bowl XL victory. The other two being quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and linebacker James Harrison.

“Greg has been a big part of our past success, and we would like to thank him for his contributions and wish him nothing but the best,” said General Manager Kevin Colbert

 

,

Steelers Continue to Shuffle Roster; Cut Mel Blount’s Son

A few days ago I started writing a post about how cool it would be if Mel Blount’s son made the Steelers roster as the fifth inside linebacker. A few hours later Akil Blount was released by the team as they shuffled their off-season roster once again.

The string of roster moves included signing second-round pick Juju Smith-Schuster to his rookie deal. The team also signed quarterback Bart Houston and wide receiver Canaan Severin. To make room the team released quarterback Nick Schuessler and Blount.

Added to the Roster

Smith-Schuster caught 213 passes for 3,092 yards with 25 touchdown catches in 40 games at USC. He should be in the Steelers’ rotation at wide receiver as a rookie and should add another viable weapon to an already potent offense.

As for the quarterback move Houston and Schuessler are both seemingly only camp arms. Houston should be around to make sure the wide-receivers get plenty of work, but his shot at an actual roster spots seems close to zero.

Severin inks a new deal with the Steelers. A year ago he signed a undrafted rookie free agent deal with the team, but was waived/injured in August and stayed with the team on injured reserve. Wide-receiver seems to be a pretty loaded depth chart, but Severin would be an option for the practice squad and the fact that the team brought him back for another go means they see something they like.

End of Blount’s NFL Dream?

Akil Blount is in his second year of fighting for an NFL roster spot. This is, likely, the best news for Blount. Getting cut at this time of the off-season means that he could still get picked up by another team and get into a training camp. Had he been cut later in the off-season that likelihood would have been diminished.

,

Rookie MiniCamp Provides Two New Faces for the Steelers

The Steelers had 51 participants for their Rookie Minicamp over the weekend. This camp is only for rookies and players who have not yet accrued enough time in the NFL to be considered second-year players.

On the attendance list was the Steelers 2017 Draft Class. Also, the Steelers brought their nine undrafted rookie free agents, a few players who were with the team last off-season, as well as players that signed futures contracts at the beginning of the off-season and a long-list of players brought in on a tryout basis only.

Of the tryout players two were signed to contracts with the team. That does not mean that the players will make the final 53-man roster, but it does mean that they should get a chance to show what they can do during training camp.

Image result for matt galambosThe Local Linebacker

According to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the Steelers signed Pitt linebacker Matt Galambos and Fordham tight-end Phazahn Odom.

During his four years at Pitt, Galambos played in 52 games, starting 38. He had 283 tackles, including 20 for a loss and 5.5 sacks. He also had four fumble recoveries and three interceptions.

Galambos joins a small list of players looking to fill in as depth options at inside linebacker. The Steelers did not draft any inside linebackers and lost Lawrence Timmons during free agency. This is one of the main positions on the roster where there could be an open spot up for grabs.

The Huge Tight-End

The second player the Steelers signed was tight-end Phazahn Odom. Odom is a 6-foot-8 tight-end with great length. During his career at Fordham he amassed 740 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in four seasons.

Tight-end is another position where the Steelers may need some depth. Odom doesn’t look to be a great blocking option, but his size would make him a viable red-zone threat if he can show he has the skills to make the roster.

To make room for these two signings on the 90-man offseason roster, the Steelers released tight end Ryan Malleck and cornerback Devonte Johnson.

,

Steelers Release Two More as They Continue to Trim Roster Post-Draft

The Pittsburgh Steelers have to continue to trim the roster after the 2017 NFL Draft. Off-Season rosters have a max of 90 players and the Steelers have to make room to sign their 8 draft picks. That means room has to be made and to make room players have to be cut. Today, the Steelers release of two more players comes in an effort to make room for signing their draft picks:

Why These Players Got Cut

Cutting one of their three long-snappers was a given. After drafting Colin Holba in the sixth round of the draft, and with 12-year veteran Greg Warren on the roster, keeping a third long-snapper was unnecessary.

Wide Receiver is also a position that is overrun currently. With the addition of Juju Smith-Schuster in the draft and the reinstatement of Martavis Bryant their aren’t many sports left on the depth chart at receiver.

 

,

Zach Mettenberger is the Steelers First Draft Casualty

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said there would be casualties of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Steelers drafted 8 players, who have yet to sign, and signed 9 undrafted rookie free agents. That put the roster at the max 90 players. Now as the team prepares to sign those draft picks they will need to make room by cutting veterans off the roster. The first cut is quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

Guess I don’t have to write a post about him being one of the losers from this year’s draft. Mettenberger, who was signed last year to be the team’s third-string quarterback, never played for the team.

Steelers Quarterback Situation

Image result for zach mettenberger steelersThe Steelers resigned Landry Jones this off-season to continue to serve as Ben Roethlisberger’s primary back-up. They also drafted Tennessee quarterback Joshu Dobbs in the fourth round of the NFL Draft this past weekend.

That left Mettenberger without a spot on the depth chart. Pittsburgh also signed Nick Schuessler, who served as Deshaun Watson’s back-up at Clemson, to an undrafted free agent contract. That gives them an extra camp arm and left them with no real need to keep Mettenberger around.

 

 

, ,

Steelers Sign 9 Undrafted Rookie Free Agents

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed nine undrafted rookie free agents following the 2017 NFL Draft:

NamePositionHeightWeightSchool
Nelson AdamsDT6-3287Mississippi State
Christian BrownDT6-3295West Virginia
Ethan CooperOG6-2322Indiana-Pennsylvania
Francis KallonDE6-5295Georgia Tech
Keith KelseyLB6-0233Louisville
Scott OrndoffTE6-4253Pittsburgh
Nick SchuesslerQB6-3196Clemson
Rushel ShellRB5-9227West Virginia
Terrish WebbDB5-10190Pittsburgh

Right now the Steelers roster is at the maximum of 90 players. As they begin signing their draft picks to contracts they will have to cut players from the 90-man roster. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said that current roster player will be released at that point, because these undrafted free agents are looked as improvements to the roster.

,

Steelers Visiting With Keenan Lewis Prior to Start of Day 3 of Draft

Keenan Lewis spent four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Lewis, a third round pick in 2009, took a while to develop, but had a very successful fourth season. Following that season Lewis became a free agent and signed a 5-year deal with the New Orleans Saints.

Unfortunately for Lewis, his time in New Orleans was cut short due to leg and hip injuries. Last off-season Lewis visited the Steelers. He did not receive a contract from the team, however, and sat out the entire 2016 season.

If, and that is a big if, the Steelers think he can still be productive. And the bigger if: if he is healthy. He could be a nice addition to the Steelers depth chart at corner.

It is interesting that this meeting is coming today. Perhaps the Steelers have had interest in Lewis, but they may have been waiting to see how the NFL Draft shook out. If a top corner had fallen to them in the first or second rounds perhaps this meeting would never have happened.

Pittsburgh did draft a corner, Tennessee’s Cameron Sutton, in the third round. There is talk, though, that Sutton could move to safety. That would mean the Steelers still need another corner, which is where Lewis comes in.

Also, if the Steelers do plan to sign Lewis it could mean they are done with defensive backs in the draft. Right now the team has four picks left in the 2017 NFL Draft. Consensus is that they will likely draft a quarterback and tight end at some point. The team also could use another defensive lineman. That leaves only one more pick for a possible defensive back, but the team could also use another linebacker.

However, if they chose to bring back Lewis they could hold off on another defensive back in this draft. Or this move could be something they have been planning and could be completely unrelated to the draft.

The real question is: Can Keenan Lewis return to the player he was when he left the Steelers? If they thing he can the Steelers would be smart to sign him to a deal.