For all intents and purposes, the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason has pretty much come to a close. The OTA’s will start soon, and the team more than likely won’t be making any more transactions other than signing the new draft picks (maybe). Time to take a look at what could be the best and riskiest moves the Steelers took over the last three months.
I think there are two that fall into play here. One is fairly obvious, the other might be a bit of a reach.
Dumping LaMarr Woodley
Woodley became a liability after his second calf injury in 2013. His failure to stay in NFL football shape during the offseason, accountability on the field, and drop in production (due to all of the above) put the Steelers in a very difficult situation. They made the best move they possibly could by releasing Woodley this spring and making the roster move official on June 1st in order to recoup as much dead money from the contract as possible.
The departure of Woodley means that the Steelers had minimum damage in trying to work salary cap magic before having to sign their rookies prior to training camp. And, in a way, it allowed them to be aggressive early in trying to sign a key FA or two to lessen then stress of having to nail every single draft selection. I think this move pretty much set the table and put the wheels in motion for the last three months. While I give the months of March-May somewhere around a grade of a B-, that grade would be even lower were they to keep Woodley, be forced to release or restructure other players in order to keep Woodley’s fat salary on the books in full, and not sign any key free agents. As much of a good move that this is, it’s also a bit risky.
Signing FA safety Mike Mitchell
The Steelers first and biggest free agent signing was with safety Mike Mitchell from the Carolina Panthers. Mitchell’s age and speed already puts him at a huge advantage over his predecessor, Ryan Clark. At age 27 and with a rather impressive speed for pursuit, Mitchelll will turn the clock back to previous seasons when Clark was in his prime and the Troy Polamalu/Clark duo was a feared pair. He certainly is a playmaker with four interceptions and a few sacks to go along with them in 2013. To top it off they got Mitchell at a bargain – five years at $25 million total. Only $5 million is guaranteed money, which is huge if this guy has a major decline or injures himself to the point of no return. Colbert and Kahn were smart and able to get Mitchell to agree to a contract that is backloaded. That’s helpful in the long run since a few key vets have rather large cap hits in the coming years. It’s a good signing and one of the best moves the organization made.