While the investigation down in Georgia continues, the Pittsburgh Steelers have thankfully made some news which doesn’t involve the sexual predator standing behind center. In a surprising departure from their usual method of doing business, the front office has gone on an unprecedented wave of free agent spending in the past twenty-four hours. While none of these acquisitions are either marquee players or pricey big ticket items, it’s still a notable change from pretty much every other off-season when the team would wait until the market had dried up and then picked through whatever leftovers they could find.
The most notable signing is that of Ryan Clark. I’ll admit to not expecting him back once he hit the open market but it appears he had a change of heart (or the money he was expecting to be offered wasn’t there after all). He has accepted a four year, $14 million contract which is far from the $6 million he would’ve made had the Steelers placed one of their tags on him. So it looks like they got him for the price they wanted all along.
While I don’t believe Clark is anything more than average, it’s hard to take issue with this move. I would’ve let him walk if his contract demands were ludicrous but at $3 million a year he’s almost a bargain. There aren’t any decent replacements available via free agency and Ryan Mundy has shown he’s not starter quality. Meanwhile, even if the Steelers are able to take one of the top safeties in this year’s draft, rookies never see significant playing time for Dick LeBeau.
The Steelers also signed another safety, Will Allen. Allen spent his entire six year career with Tampa Bay, where he was originally under the tutelage of secondary coach Mike Tomlin. Allen started sporadically for the Bucs, entering last season as the starter before losing the final half of the year to a hand injury. Allen will probably serve as the primary back-up to Clark with his greatest value coming on special teams. Allen is fantastic coverage “gunner” who was even selected as a first alternate to the Pro Bowl for his special teams work. Maybe we’ll actually be able to cover kicks this season.
Another newcomer to the Steelers is WR Arnaz Battle. Battle had five receptions last season for the 49ers and a grand total of 11 touchdowns over his eight year career. The key number when it comes to Battle is his height: 6’1. The Steelers always want to have at least one large target among the WR corps and it looks like Battle is going to be that guy. The obvious message you can read into this is that the days of Limas Sweed dropping passes in the black and gold appear to be rapidly coming to an end.
Finally, the Steelers have also re-signed our long lost gadget play specialist, Antwaan Randle El. After throwing the game winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XL, Randle El cashed in on his sudden fame by accepting a $31 million contract from the buffoon out in Washington D.C. Despite leading the ‘Skins in yardage and catches last year, Randle El was cut as part of a team wide housecleaning by new head coach Mike Shanahan. Although he started for the Steelers, Randle El was always best used as a third down possession-type receiver and as a return man. Stefan Logan did well on kick returns but had problems as a punt returner so I’d imagine Randle El will be given those duties next season.
And, hey, he was a starting quarterback back in college where he was the first player in Division I history to pass for 40 career touchdowns and score 40 career rushing touchdowns. If worst comes to worst, maybe he can move back.
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