It’s been a rough offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers this go around, and there aren’t too many bright spots for Steeler fans to get excited over. Even the signings that took place to retain players like Larry Foote left some of us feeling confused or at the very least rather neutral. But, as of late Wednesday evening, Steeler fans can feel a little better about the state of the team going into the draft…. even if it is just a little.
You all should have felt a bit of a disturbance in The Force earlier on Wednesday when news broke out that Steelers backup (but soon to be starter) NT Steve McLendon when up to Green Bay and visited the Packers. With Casey Hampton about the be permanently shelved and Alameda ‘Vice City’ Ta’amu still questionable with his off field behaviors, McLendon was (at least in my eyes) the heir apparent at the NT position. Green Bay runs a 3-4 defense just like the Steelers, and what’s not to like about the Packers these days if you are a football player wanting to be on a playoff contending team? There was a very strong chance McLendon could leave the Steelers for the land of Cheeseheads.
McLendon said farewell to Green Bay the same day and headed back to the ‘Burgh where he met with the Steelers. Though it has not been reported, I would not doubt if Stevie got an offer from the Packers before he got on that plane. The Steelers tendered McLendon before the start of free agency, so they at least had a chance to match any offer that came from another squad. McLendon, as an UDRFA, was given the lowest tender allowed of $1.3 million. So, if the Packers gave him an offer, it had to at least exceed the $1.3 million. But, because McLendon was undrafted and given the lowest tender, they would have received nothing in compensation for letting him sign with the Packers. The Steelers either had to match the offer or let him go.
The Steelers avoided the mistake that they made with Emmanuel Sanders and signed McLendon to a three year that’s worth a maximum of $7.25 million and includes a $1.675 million signing bonus. That’s going to be roughly $2.5 million/year and will eat up some of that cap space that the Steelers will get once Willie Colon is off the books. The deal makes things extra tricky come June and getting rookies signed, so I doubt they are done shifting around money and the roster.
This is a smart move by the team, and really the only move they could make. There’s no way they were about to pay a heft price to re-sign Hampton – 35 years old and disintegrating legs – because they just lost their ‘next best thing.’ And, there’s no way they were about to leave the future of the 3-4 defense in the hands of a second year kid who can’t control his liquor and runs from the cops (thus not getting any regular season snaps in his rookie year). McLendon was the only option, so the Steelers gave the 27 year old an offer he could not refuse – a long term contract, which translates into a starting job that is yours to lose.
Mike Wallace, gone. Rashard Mendenhall, gone. Keenan Lewis, gone. James Harrison, gone. Larry Foote, oddly retained. Willie Gay, bafflingly brought back. (Excuse me while I go grab my Tums)
Steve McLendon, re-signed for 3 years. Might just be the best move the Steelers make all offseason. Wouldn’t be the first thing I would think of if you were to ask me what I thought the Steelers best move would be. But, if he can step up and perform at the level Hampton did while in his prime, it very well might be the highlight of the Steelers free agency period in 2013.