Pittsburgh Steelers Best vs Riskiest Moves This Offseason

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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.

Best moves

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

Nov 10, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (56) warms up prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

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

Jan 12, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell (21) on the field prior to the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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  • [email protected]

    I’m not too worried about our D line, although I certainly was pre-draft!
    Why?
    We now have two players who can share time at NT (Thomas and McCullers), 3 if you continue to use McClendon situationally at NT (passing downs). And as you correctly point out, Mc is NOT a NT, he is built and skilled to be a DE.
    So, our DEs now consist of Heyward, Tuitt, and McClendon – pretty good lineup there.
    True, McCullers may struggle as a rookie, but we can use him as our designated early down run stuffer. Despite DLBs legendarily complex D, how hard can it be to understand that your job is to occupy as many O linemen in the middle as possible? Thomas may work out better than we thought as well.
    So, in my mind drafting McCullers was just as important as any pick we made, and I congratulate the Steelers on finally recognizing that what they were trying to do at NT was NOT working (no offense to Mc.)

    • SDAZT_STEEL

      Don’t sell McLendon short, Pittsburgh was terrific against the run between the guards last fall in ypc allowed, and a lot of the blame rests on the shoulders of the LBs as well. Guy was in his first season as a starting NT so don’t give up on him quite yet in spite of the fact he is a better fit in terms of skill-set as a 4-3 DT (1-Tech). Who knows? Maybe Tomlin will be installing a 4-3 D after LeBeau leaves? He certainly acquired a 4-3 OLB w/Shazier in round one this May.

      Also, while occupying most OL in the middle as possible is important, massive NT’s who offer nothing in the way of pass-rushing are rendered almost moot when opposing offenses dink and dunk them through the air and the defense refuses to play press coverage.

      I will say that I am excited to see how the D-Line pans out with all the new blood along it this fall.

  • SDAZT_STEEL

    The fact that Woodley is gone already makes this season a win for arguably one of the only people who saw his extension as the financial disaster it was before it was even signed. Lol.

    I hate to play “what if?,” but could you imagine how much cap room or the types of players who could have been locked up if they either franchised Woodley back in 2011 or simply let him skip town? I’m not saying this team would have been 16-16 the last two years, but I think the ancillary pieces which they could have been able to keep could have helped this team secure at least a postseason berth.

    On a positive note, I don’t mind the youth along the D-Line as much as most since there is so much of it despite the fact that the team lost Hood, Woods and Keisel. As long as the competition between Thomas, McCullers, Fangupo, Tuitt, Arnfelt, Williams, Mauro and Hemer is heated and breeds improvement, this team projects to be on the right track at those positions long into the future after some early growing pains.