Steelers Continue Trend Of Shying Away From Second Contracts To Players Drafted After Third Round

On Thursday we found out that Pittsburgh Steelers unrestricted free agent cornerback Keenan Lewis will not be returning in 2013 after he signed a five year contract with the New Orleans Saints. When you look at the history of the Steelers under general manager Kevin Colbert, it\’s not too surprising that Lewis did not receive a second contract.

As I pointed out in my recent post about using restricted free agency as a filtering system, the Steelers have only given second multi-year contracts to 10 of their 80 draft picks selected from the third round and later dating back to the 2000 draft. Those 10 players are Antonio BrownWillie ColonTrai EssexChris KemoeatuMax StarksIke TaylorLarry FooteVerron HaynesBrett Keisel and Chukky Okobi.

How does this compare to the rest of the league over that span of time? I don\’t know, as it would take some serious research to dig that kind of information up. I do find it interesting, however, that five of those ten players are offensive lineman and only one of those ten a wide receiver.

The Lewis situation, now that we know the contract details, is a bit curious, as the Steelers certainly could have fit that contract into this year, and next for that matter, from a salary cap standpoint. We don\’t know the thinking of the front office, however. Perhaps they deem Cortez Allen a much better prospect moving forward, but even so, Ike Taylor only has one more left in him, one would think. Signing Lewis would have given them time to get past him and groom another young cornerback behind him. Heading into 2011, however, you would have never dreamed Lewis would be getting the kind of contract that he received from the Saints.

Sure, Curtis Brown could certainly start to turn the corner in his third year, the way Lewis did in his, but his contract is up after the 2014 season. It\’s hard to imagine that he will become the 11th player drafted after round three to receive a second multi-year contract.

William Gay doesn\’t figure to see the end of his new three-year deal while Josh Victorian and DeMarcus Van Dyke are still relatively unknown commodities that look like backups at best right now.

Considering the time that takes to get a young cornerback up to speed on defense, I think it is safe to say that the Steelers will not be drafting one in the first two rounds in the upcoming draft. Heck, they might not even draft one at all.

Judging by the Steelers history, they are comfortable in turning over the bottom three quarters of the roster every three or four years. As far as where the money goes, the quarterback and tight end get it on offense, while the rest gets scattered throughout the defense.

With Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace and Ryan Mundy all gone this off-season via free agency, the Steelers 2008 draft class is now all gone and only Ziggy Hood and David Johnson remain from the 2009 class.

With the older players slowly starting to drop off one by one, what remains of the last three draft classes, 17 players by the way, will be counted on heavily starting in 2014. Joining them on defense is LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds, both of whom must perform in 2013 if the Steelers want to have a chance at competing for a championship.

All of the above looks unorthodox when you draw it out, but the fact of the matter is that the Steelers went to the Super Bowl two times in the last five seasons. It was an older team, however. At least they still have a quarterback and in this day and age of the game, that gives you a fighting chance year in and year out by itself.

Is this upcoming draft any more important than the previous three or four? I think that every year is, but they certainly cant miss like they did in 2008. Mendenhall seved his purpose, the rest of the picks were quite awful.

  • Dave just threw a gallon of gasoline on the bee hive…

  • Rick Austin

    Great write up, it does show you the failure of past dafts. What’s sad is they are up against the cap with a below average team. It could be a difficult next few years.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    What do you guys think of X. Rhodes if he slips in the second or maybe even taking a chance on Tyrann Mathieu in the middle rounds of the draft this year

  • steeltown

    I think Will Allen needs to be signed on a ONE year deal for depth purposes, possibly Starks as well.. I would suspect we have the cap room now that Lewis is not in the equation

    I for one am excited to see players like Worilds, McLendon and Cortz Allen start.. other Teams turn to their younger talent far earlier

    I also want to say this, to all the Dwyer haters.. go back and watch the tape from ’12.. this guy is can play,. im not saying he should be the #1 guy, but Im damn happy to have him on the Team

  • Jeff

    I don’t really see this as a negative trend. All it means is that we are drafting guys that are either over performing based on where they were drafted and are getting big (or overpriced i.e.: Mike Wallace) offers from other teams, or they are filling their roles as backups and special teamers until they are being replaced by the next crop of draftees. Thats what late round picks are supposed to be. As long as they are not overpaying aging vets like Larry Foote and Willy Gay and are not wasting money on overrated middle of the road players we’ll be fine. This is the reality of the salary cap era. Trades rarely happen, so take the 3rd and 5th round compensatory picks we get for Wallace and Lewis and use them to add productive players to our roster next season.

  • TJimmy

    maybe they have a lot of confidence in the Lake effect

  • steeltown

    By the way, the new Foote and Gay contracts are worth $1.8MIL and $1.5MIL avg per season respectively.. I dont care what anyone says about these guys, thats a bargain

  • SteelerDave

    I too am excited to see Cortez start for us along with Worilds and McLendon. I am concerned though about CB depth beyond Cortez. Seems like we signed Gay back knowing Lewis was a gonner.

  • Mikey Hoje

    What I noticed: entire 08 draft class off the roster; 09 only Ziggy Hood remains, the rest…. ‘GON.

  • steeltown

    Dont forget, Gay had a very solid season with us as a starter in 2011 (I know some on here dont want me talking positively about Gay) but at this point he’s solid depth as a #3 I’m more worried beyond him, I truly hope C.Brown steps up in his 3rd season… Lets not forget it took the oh so coveted Lewis 3yrs to turn the corner, before that he was pretty much a non factor

  • steeltown

    I like him… but I doubt he makes it to the 2nd

  • Phil Heidenreich

    Definitely agree on Will Allen. I thought he played very well when forced to play, and without other even semi-proven options would provide great value. Lewis would’ve been nice to have, but the one thing we’ve missed with Harrison’s injuries, Woodley’s fat and Polamalu’s injuries the past few years is turnovers. Lewis has only 1 to his credit while Cortez came up big in that department late in the season. I see more long term value in his size and ability.

    Hopefully Worilds can handle Harrison’s spot like he did Woodley’s.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Like both really want honeybadgwmer if not both

  • HarryBackside

    It’s not just late round picks.

    2006 draft class… gone
    2008 draft class… gone
    2009 draft class… except for Ziggy Hood, gone

    The Steelers have just flat out sucked in the draft over the past 6 or 7 years.

  • HarryBackside

    Long indeed. Steelers won’t be out from under the salary cap until 2015.

  • steeltown

    Exactly.. If not scooped up by another Team, W.Allen could be signed for the vet minimum, thats good depth for very little $$$

  • HarryBackside

    Same thing with 2006 draft class. Woodley and Timmons from 2007. Nothing from 2008. This is the last year of Hood’s contract. Is he going to be around after this year? If not, then we’re left with two players from four draft classes.

  • steeltown

    Yet we won the AFCN 3times, the Conference Championship 2times and the Super Bowl in that span

    We currently have the best Center in the League (Pouncey) arguably the 2nd best ILB in the Laegue (Timmons) and previously a top 5 OLB (Woodley before ’12)…… but I’ll admit the ’08 draft was awful

  • Pete

    I agree they still have an elite QB in Ben but Dave I’m not seeing championship in 2014 by a long stretch. I think they’ll be lucky to make the playoffs and I’m a die hard fan black and gold all the way. It’s not a repeat of the 90s or 80s because of Ben but I think they may run into a rough patch with so many defections. The O line is starting to look like it’s shaping up to be a great unit in comparison to the rest of the team!

  • steeltown

    I disagree Pete.. maybe im wrong… but I see a roster with alot of talent and I think the new coaching staff and new OL scheme will go along way. I’m not about to scream Super Bowl or anything, but I see this Team making the Playoffs
    The Steelers usually bounce back after a down year, lets hope that history repeats itself

  • HarryBackside

    And the team has been on a steady decline since 2010, because they haven’t been able to keep the pipeline full. Now the Steelers are in rebuilding mode, and are years away from sniffing another championship.

  • hergieburbur

    As far as only one of the 10 being a WR, keep in mind that only two Steelers WRs have gotten second contracts period since the start of FA, Ward and Brown.

  • hergieburbur

    DJ is still hanging in there, they just resigned him.

  • Nolrog

    That’s a couple aweful years of drafting. Colbert gets so much credit for his drafting, such a great reputation, but I’m not totally convinced it’s really deserved.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    No to mathieu. Doesn’t fit steelers scheme at all. If anything,we don’t want a cornerback from this class (a really bad pool of cornerbacks) you instead load at safety position in later rounds but focus toward offense in first 3 of 4 picks.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Most of those draft picks are out of football and did not leave for big contracts..

  • LucasY59

    the 06 and 09 classes were drafts where they were picking at the end of the round after winning the superbowl. the 08 class is definately the most dissapointing.

    but it should make for a hopefully good 2014 class with all the comp picks the 08 & 09 class will earn as well as the the small chance of the Steelers making much of a playoff run (if they even make it)

  • richard

    I see it this way, there are to many holes in the defense, and any defensive players will only play special teams, so build heavily on the offense. Mike Mayock said Tavon Austin is the most explosive player in the draft. The Steelers should take him, he replaces Wallaces speed, and he is a heck of a returner. The Steelers have been trying to fix the O-line, now it’s time to give Ben some new toys. If Pittsburgh can average just 7 or so more points per game this year, the playoffs may be possible.

  • Bradys_Dad

    I too think that Dwyer has game. What confuses the heck out of me is why the front office wouldn’t even make an attempt to sign Mendy (oft injured and fumble prone – but a young physical stud with power and speed) and then bring in Beanie Wells (oft injured and fumble prone – but smaller and slower then Mendy) for a visit. Some of these decisions have to make you wonder.

  • Guest

    I have to disagree on Tavon Austin. Coveting speed like that — and using your high draft picks to do so — is a Raiders move. Based on his rankings, Mayock thinks Austin’s only the third best WR in the draft, and it’s not like there is a huge drop off in talent between the top WRs this year and the rest of the field.

    That said, I think you’re right that they need to look for some game-change skill players in the early rounds.

  • steeltown

    12-4 in 2011 and a playoff appearance

    One bad year (8-8) and we’re on a steady decline and in rebuilding mode? Why, because we need a RB and we need to replace Wallace’ production?

    It happens, look at the history of the Team, down years happen… they always bounce back…. Lets hope history repeats itself

    Just be happy you werent born in Buffalo… or St. Louis.. or Jacksonville, Ha!

  • HarryBackside

    Elite teams are measured by success in the post-season, not the regular season.

    2010: 1st in the division, lost SB
    2011: 2nd in the division, lost in wild card round
    2012: 3rd in the division, missed playoffs

    That’s a declining team

  • steeltown

    Boy, we Steeler fans are a spoiled bunch