The Steelers 2011 Free Agency Course Should Come As No Surprise

If you have been paying close attention this offseason it should be pretty clear what the Steelers plan was this offseason in regards to free agency. In reality it really is nothing different than what they normally do though as they re-sign their own free agents first and might sprinkle in another low profile free agent or two from another team for good measure.

The Steelers are a veteran team and that plays right into their favor this year due to the lockout. The teams that have new coaching staffs, new systems and new players will be at a big disadvantage due to the late running of free agency and the loss of mini-camps and OTA sessions. Teams that are forced to start rookies are in for a long season as well.

The Steelers plan is simple. Right now they look to return 8 starters on offense and all 11 on defense. This will give them time to bring their rookie class along slowly and allow second year players to contribute more this year. While the veterans might be another year older, the rest they received during the lockout likely only helped them. There were no OTA sessions or mini-camps to wear them down during the spring and summer and they can use training camp to knock the rust off.

The Steelers are in transition mode on both sides of the ball, but more-so on the defensive side of the ball with young defensive linemen, linebackers and cornerbacks getting groomed for the future. As I have shown in a past post, the Steelers do not rush their cornerbacks into action if they don\’t have to. They train them for the system and it will be no different for Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen this year. Expect those two to see nothing but special teams work early on in the tear.

Many around Steeler Nation are upset that William Gay was re-signed, but he comes cheap and knows the system. The Steelers have been up against the cap all offseason and once Ike Taylor and Willie Colon were re-signed, both at good value mind you; the free agency shopping frenzy was over. They dipped their toes in the Plaxico Burress pool, but that was as sexy as it was going to get for the Steelers. If you dreamed they were going to land a Nnamdi Asomugha, Jonathan Joseph, Doug Free or Sidney Rice, you just don\’t follow the Steelers close enough. It is not what they do, even in years without a lockout.

I posted a short time ago about how the Steelers never attack the cornerback position in free agency and it seems they have held true to form once again. The Steelers wish to be competitive every year instead of mortgaging the future like Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder like to do. You never hear about the Steelers having to blow things up and start over as they build through the draft and keep the players that perform in their system. This year is no different.

Instead of talking about being one drive away from their 7th Lombardi Trophy, all most the fans want to talk about is a forthcoming doom of the cornerbacks and offensive line. The Steelers addressed both areas in the draft, but it will take time to develop them. Had they let Taylor walk and had signed a Joseph or Carlos Rogers; they would be gambling that that either could learn or adapt to the Dick LeBeau system quickly. That is a risky proposition as many do not realize how complicated the system really is. Why do you think LeBeau gets the accolades that he does? It is the system. Players with the right talents that are groomed to fit the system.

This time last year a good chunk of Steeler Nation were predicting doom and despair. Not only were they worried about the offensive line and the cornerbacks last year, they thought the loss of Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games was a death blow to the season. Mike Tomlin and company proved everyone wrong and the Steelers made a strong run at the championship despite the doom and gloom and quarterback obstacle.

I\’ve got news folks; they have another legitimate shot to make another run this year as well and many years from now as well. They have a plan and they stick to it. It is not flashy, especially around free agency time, but it usually works. Art Rooney II knows it and Kevin Colbert knows it. When in doubt, stick with your own that have walked down the path before. This is the Steeler way.