Steelers Are Winning NFL Free Agency In AFC North Without Even Making A Move

By Cian Fahey

As the Pittsburgh Steelers carry out their tradition of sitting silently and watching other teams overspend on NFL free agents, the team is happily watching on as their biggest rivals faltered early on.

The saying goes “If you\’re not getting better, you\’re getting worse,” but the saying doesn\’t take into account the prospect of your rivals getting worse. While some of the AFC North teams are yet to get worse, their stagnation is enough to keep them in the Steelers\’ side-view mirror.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have lost some key defensive contributors already, while a key offensive piece has been shopping himself around multiple teams.

Corey Redding may not be a name on most people\’s minds when they think of the Ravens\’ defense, but he was a very important contributor to the success of the group in recent years. Playing the 3-4 defensive end role, which Steelers fans appreciate but most NFL fans don\’t, Redding was a better than average performer in Baltimore. The team will struggle to instantly replace him.

Jarrett Johnson was signed by the San Diego Chargers who looked past his inability as a pass rusher to still recognize him as a very good player. Losing Johnson isn\’t as significant as losing say a Terrell Suggs, but his departure does take away from the Ravens defense. Johnson added another dimension to the Ravens\’ defense because he excelled at everything but pass rushing. He expertly dropped into coverage while being stout against the run. Because of Sergio Kindle\’s well documented issues, Johnson\’s successor hasn\’t been effectively groomed over the past few years.

Redding and Johnson started together regularly on the same side, at the very least, the Ravens lose some level of continuity on defense. Something the Steelers, for the most part, have kept this off-season outside of the obvious loss of James Farrior.

Offensively, the Ravens will need to adjust to a new face on the offensive line most likely as Ben Grubbs is attracting a lot of suitors. Meanwhile, the Ravens have targeted Evan Mathis as his replacement. Mathis is a 30 year old one-year-wonder who is nothing near a dead certainty as a starter.

Cleveland Browns

Whether they were going to re-sign him or not, the Cleveland Browns have so far lost one free agent, who was also a starter during his time in Cleveland. Peyton Hillis escaped Cleveland after an injury plagued season last year to become the new running back for the Kansas City Chiefs. At the very least, Hillis leaving gives the Browns another issue to address.

While it wasn\’t a free agency move, the Browns also missed out on bringing in Robert Griffin III which would have thrown somewhat of a spanner in the works of the AFC North. With Griffin, the Browns could have had a joker in the deck because it had been so long since they had a quarterback worthy of being on the same level of those winning the division on a regular basis. Without him, they see Colt McCoy as being no different to Matt Flynn. Another year of McCoy on that offense can only be good for the Steelers, that is presuming James Harrison doesn\’t punish him for last season\’s hit and get himself suspended for an even longer spell.

Cincinnati Bengals

Outside of re-signing their kicker, so far the Bengals haven\’t made any moves of note. The only activity involving the team has seen two players leave. Frostee Rucker left the team and landed within the division at Cleveland, while Jonathan Fanene, who had 6.5 sacks, was snapped up by the New England Patriots.

The Bengals have watched on as a slew of receivers who could have fit their offense signed with other teams. The Steelers won\’t have to deal with Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson, Pierre Garcon or not even Mario Manningham seemingly as the Bengals are yet to approach him.

So while many Steelers fans, most likely the younger less experienced followers of the team, are frustrated by the lack of activity or fretting about the potential losses, there is a lot to admire about a team simply holding onto its strengths and sustaining a level of continuity.

Follow Cian on Twitter @Cianaf

  • ed52

    Good article. Our list of free agents who have made a significant impact is very short. Bettis and Farrior come to mind. I’m sure there are others but the list is short. Steelers just don’t operate that way.

  • GPT

    Bettis was acquired via trade, so your list is even shorter. But the point is the same – develop and keep your own instead of overpaying for over team’s castoffs.

  • Joey

    Great article! I still can’t believe how much money V-Jax received

  • Farrior, Clark and a bunch of retreads that were former steelers.

  • Nice Article

  • MazIII

    overpaid free agents? i cant help to think about Duce Staley 3 years only played about 15 games. Im fine with working through the draft.

  • Bettis was acquired in a trade

  • True, but Duce was our one truly bad FA pickup. Most teams have several.

  • ed52

    Don’t get me wrong, I was licking my chops at the thought of a couple free agents, like Nicks (OG-Saints) or maybe even Hutchison (OG-Vikings). Both Pro Bowlers, Nicks probably best OG in the league, Hutch maybe a few more good years out of him. But I’d much rather make quality picks. Look at our last 14 first round picks…all the way back to Faneca in 1998. We gotta pretty good track record of drafting keepers in the first round. God I hope we get one of those OGs in the first round.

  • Bmaloney333

    Duce was as much a part of that 15-1 season as bettis was.

  • I am not sure any of the first round OGs that are worth the pick will be there at 24. The difference in what we can get at 24 vs 56 may not be that great.

  • He put up 830 and 1 TD in 10 games. Bettis put up 941 and 13 TDs while starting 6 and playing in 10. Duce contributed, I am not taking that away, but he went on to have 148 yards and 1 TD in the next two seasons combined, which makes him our worst FA signing for the money.

  • Dave

    One great free agent signing you guys forgot to mention was Jeff Hartings.

    In general, the Steelers build through the draft and use free agency mainly on mid to lower priced guys to fill some gaps. The big money signings are for their own internally developed guys – Polamalu, Big Ben, LaMarr Woodley, etc

    Bad teams need to use free agency to make a ‘splash’, get fans excited in the Spring despite not making the playoffs last year, and sell tickets.

  • Cincinnati has a TON of cap space, and while Mike Brown is notoriously cheap his hands are tied as he has to spend I think somewhere between 85-95% of the cap. I can only believe that since he didn’t go after any of the other big name receivers he is waiting to snag Mike Wallace. It would help the Bengals & AJ Green while wounding the Steelers. Hope Im wrong.

  • Shannon82960

    steelers are the or lose i’m a steeler lifer.