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Looking Back At The Steelers Decision To Release QB Brian Hoyer Last December

On Friday, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Pittsburgh Steelers were really wanting to get back quarterback Brian Hoyer, who spent a short time on their roster last season when Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich were both sidelined by injuries. That want was made impossible recently when the Arizona Cardinals put a second-round tender on the 27-year-old quarterback, who they claimed off wavers from the Steelers way back in early December of last season.

So if the Steelers really wanted to keep Hoyer, why did they let him go in the first place?

We can only speculate, but the Steelers were possibly hoping that Hoyer would have cleared waivers the weekend that he was released so that cornerback Josh Victorian could be elevated to the 53 man roster due to the injury suffered by cornerback Ike Taylor the week before. Had Hoyer cleared waivers, he could have been signed back to roster the following week.

So why didn\’t they release Leftwich instead, and not risk it? For starters, Leftwich\’s salary was guaranteed for the full season after making the roster out of training camp as a vested veteran. He also carried a reduced cap charge being as he had signed a one-year qualifying contract. Had they released him, they still would have had to account for his salary against the cap for the remainder of the season. Was that a big deal to the Steelers? We may never know.

Couldn\’t they had placed Leftwich on injured reserve because of his rib injury? I suppose that was possible, but Leftwich would have likely had a grievance with that since the injury was not deemed a long-term one. Once again, that\’s just speculation.

So what if Hoyer had stayed on the 53 man roster the rest of the season? Being as he would have gotten credit for being on the roster in Week 14 and beyond, he would have been credited with an accrued season. That accrued season would have then made him an unrestricted free agent after the season ended. As an unrestricted free agent the Steelers would have had the opportunity to lock him up long-term, but so would have other teams. In other words, there would have been no guarantee that he was going to be back in 2013.

Had the Steelers been able to get him through waivers back in early December, Hoyer wouldn\’t have qualified for an accrued season and would have instead been a restricted free agent had he been on the roster at the end of the season. At that point, the Steelers could have tendered him and hoped that another team didn\’t sign him to an offer sheet that they would have had the right to match.

It is all semantics right now, and we might never know if the Steelers were indeed hoping to sneak Hoyer through waivers back in December. Perhaps it was a gamble that didn\’t pay off. All that matters now is that Hoyer will be with the Cardinals in 2013 and that the Steelers moved forward by signing Bruce Gradkowski to a three-year contract at the start of free agency.

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