5 Smoldering Questions on the Steelers’ Free Agency

IMG_1724by Hombre de Acero

With NFL Free Agency about to begin its third week the 2017 off season is fully underway. And for the Steelers it’s business as usual, greatly to the chagrin of much of the franchise’s fan base. Nonetheless, there’s been enough activity thus far to give this corner of Steelers Nation 5 Smoldering Questions to struggle with before our focus firmly shifts to the 2017 NFL Draft.

1. A new coach’s first draft pick defines his legacy – unless it doesn’t. Bill Austin defined his legacy for the worse by picking Dick Leftridge and Chuck Noll defined his for the better by picking Joe Greene. However, while he was a good pick, it is hard to argue that picking Leon Searcy defined Bill Cowher’s legacy one way or another.

With that in mind, to what extent did picking Lawrence Timmons define Mike Tomlin’s legacy?

2. Jarvis Jones’ defection to Pittsburgh West, aka the Arizona Cardinals, punctuated his status as the most disappointing first round pick of the Kevin Colbert era. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, is it correct to say that the Steelers erred in cutting James Harrison during the 2013 off season?

3. At this point in the off season, when NFL teams throw contracts at free agents as if they are spending monopoly money, commentators frequently cite the oft inactive Steelers and Patriots (along with a handful of other clubs, such as the Packers) as models for how to successfully work the system.

Yet, as ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes, the Patriots have departed from the script this year and have been fairly aggressive in acquiring new players. Given Pittsburgh’s seemingly perennial status as second fiddle to the Patriots, do you think that the Steelers brain trust should have been more active in the first wave of free agency?

4. Oddly enough, our fourth question provides a sort of “Counter Factual” case study for question 3.

The Steelers did in fact express strong interest in signing New England’s Donta Hightower and, while they weren’t prepared to engage in a bidding war, did by all accounts make a serious offer to Hightower, which he rejected.

Before the outcome was known, Jim Wexell argued persuasively that Hightower wouldn’t offer much of an upgrade, and after he made his decision, Ed Bouchette argued that Hightower had done the Steelers a favor.

First, do you agree with Wexell and Bouchette and, second, what does the fact that the Steelers were willing to make such an aggressive offer for this type of player tell you?

5. Of the Steelers remaining unsigned free agents, DeAngelo Williams, Cody Wallace, Shamarko Thomas and Ricardo Mathews, which do you think the team should consider re-signing and which players do you think should consider beginning their “Life’s Work?”

There you go folks! Have at it.


  • roxannafirehall

    1. I don’t agree with the premise, but you might say it was the dawn of an emphasis on speed.

    2. Hard to say. 92 has played better in the last two years than he was when he left.

    3. Not unless the key to breaking NE domination was to be gained. I don’t believe it was, as that key is the retirement of Brady.

    4. Without knowing the details, the little we know tells me nada.

    5. Cody.


  • 1. First picks today are a completely different animal than they were 40-50 years ago.
    2. Deebo is amazing, JJ not so much
    3. I like the Steelers approach, so no.
    4. I don’t think Hightower would have been much of a fit or upgrade.
    5. DeAngelo Williams


  • 1. Roxanna Firehall makes a great point that wouldn’t have occurred to me. Otherwise, I would say it wasn’t like the Joe Greene pick, because it didn’t alter the course of the franchise. In fact, no one Tomlin could have chosen could have really done that at this point, other than for the worse.

    2. It’s easy to assume they should have kept Harrison, but I wonder if he didn’t learn things in Cincinnati that gave him an extra facet to his game. Besides, we know he likes having something to prove.

    3. No.

    4. I was a fan of Hightower in the draft, and hoped the Steelers would select him. But he was certainly injury-prone when he went to New England. IIRC he barely played his first couple of seasons. I have no idea why the Steelers seemed quite set on a guy the best of the beat writers were so down on, but let’s just hope it all turned out for the best.

    5. Now that they’ve signed Alualu, they don’t need Mathews. I love D-Will but if I were home I would retire. I think the Steelers are probably sufficiently happy with BJ Finney that they don’t need Wallace. Shamarko Thomas is clearly not the future for anyone at safety. He’s worked really hard, including spending time in the offseason with Troy, but there is some sort of disconnect, apparently. But he’s a great speak along teams player and I would definitely consider bringing him back.


  • 1. LawDog and Woodley began Tomlin’s legacy as a builder and fixer-upper. At that time, the Steelers’ biggest weakness was linebacker, and he went 1-2 with linebackers in that draft and turned it into a strength. His legacy has been to focus like a laser on the team’s weaknesses – starting with LB, then later down the road OL, and then DB – and pick the right guys to turn that weakness into a strength. Of course, it’s nice to have DeCastro fall to you in the mid-20’s and have somebody dump AV in your lap, but from his first two draft picks, Coach T has taken an honest look at the team’s weak spots and gone about fixing them as best as he can.

    2. Oh, hell yes. You never cut Deebo. It might make him mad.

    3. They know what they’re doing. We don’t. They know what the bidding was. We don’t.

    4. It seemed like Hightower was a particularly good fit for this Steeler defense, and Tomlin really wanted him because (see #1 above). There’s a need and he would fill it. But when the price got too high, the other needs – including the need to sign some of our own guys – overshadowed the need to sign Hightower. It would have been great, but there’s only so much money you’re allowed to spend.

    5. I’d absolutely sign D-Will or hire him as a coach or at least keep him on speed dial. There’s a real possibility you will need him by Thanksgiving. Does the name Ben Tate ring a bell????? Also, it’s good to keep a doctor in the house, so I’d sign Wallace, just to have him. Our OL has been relatively healthy and we have good backups, but you never know. Depth is good, and deep depth is better. Shamarko is a solid special teamer. But he sure ain’t the answer at safety. At the vet min, maybe. Just maybe. Mathews was fine last year till he got hurt, but Alualu is your super sub.


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