Steelers Have Very Few Options Should NT Steve McLendon Wind Up With The Packers

On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers decide to match the one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet given to restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, and now that the Green Bay Packers have had restricted free agent nose tackle Steve McLendon in for a visit, all of the focus has shifted to his situation.

I have already outlined what the Packers would have to give McLendon in order for the Steelers not to match, and now we will focus on the Steelers plan should somehow the former undrafted player out of Troy was allowed to walk.

It is obvious that both Alameda Ta\’amu and Hebron Fangupo will not be ready to start the season at nose tackle, and the jury is still out on if either ever will be starter. Drafting a nose tackle certainly could figure in to the plan, but even that player would need at least a year of grooming.

Veteran Casey Hampton currently remains unsigned and that doesn\’t figure to change before the draft. The decision on McLendon, however will be finalized by Friday, as that is the deadline for restricted free agents to sign their offer sheets or tenders. Should he wind up in Green Bay, which I don\’t believe will happen, the Steelers would likely try to sign Hampton to a one-year, qualifying contract for the minimum prior to the draft. That deal would include a $65,000 signing bonus and would come with a reduced cap hit of $620,000.

If Hampton is not up for a deal like that, the Steelers would have to scour the free agent list for an experienced nose tackle, which by the way, is very thin right now. How thin? former New York Jets nose tackle Sione Pouha is the only name that jumps out at me right now.

Unlike with Sanders, we will know by Friday whether or not the Packers like McLendon enough to sign him to an offer sheet. As long as it is not unreasonable, I am pretty sure the Steelers will do whatever needs to be done to match it. They pretty much have no choice in the matter but to.

  • David Edward

    The Steelers are going to look pretty stupid if he ends up signing for something like $2.5M. They could have offered him the second round tender for $2M which would’ve ensured no one would sign him. At that point, if they find a way to match, then they are yet again getting baited into paying more for a guy than they needed to.

  • mokhkw

    Hopefully this wakes people up to how much of a need NT really is for the Steelers atm. Even if McLendon stays, imagine if he got injured for an extended period or was put on IR for the year…and this is a guy who hasn’t even proved he can be a starter yet despite being given plenty of opportunities to unseat an ageing & declining 35 yo vet.

  • hergieburbur

    I don’t think they will lose him, but if they do, or if they have to match, their practices of RFA filtering will really have come back to bite them in the ass.

  • RMSteeler

    Or play more 4-3 hybrid, since they are short in LB’s. Seems like they have been doing more of that lately. They’ve pulled rabbits out of their hat for a couple of years, but when it comes down to it, the offense needs to score a LOT MORE POINTS!

  • tricitysteel

    The first thing they should do is pull the RFA qualifying offer to Ike Redmam, that at least would save half the money they need to keep McClendon.

  • Richard Edlin

    It’s really easy to be wise after the event but the fact that RFAs are very rarely nabbed suggests that the Steelers have either been phenomenally unlucky or that they’ve taken quite a few risks with the tenders they’ve offered. If it’s the former fine, but that seems unlikely. If the latter, then you’ve got to ask why.

    Part of this (especially on defense) is the unwillingness of the Steelers to introduce young players to see what they have on their hands, with the effect that they can’t really offer extensions until RFA is nearly up. However, it’s also that so much of the salary cap is concentrated on a few older players; this is inevitable across all nfl teams but worse in some, including Pittsburgh.

    Much and all as Dave Bryan argues that those concerned about the salary cap are worried about nothing each year, the can has continually been kicked down the road until we’ve reached a point that the Steelers seem unable to afford market value for their RFAs. Given the importance of McLendon to the team, there is no way that a non-compensation pick offers fair value should someone be at all interested.

    We’re keeping players that are past their use-before date and potentially losing the key depth as others are meant to become new starters. We lost Lewis in the first year he won the starting job, and stand to lose both Worilds and Saunders for 2014. At the point our older guys retire, there’s no one left to come in and reloading ceases to be an option. When this defense drops off #1 in yards, the fall is going to happen very quickly and the offense will need to carry the team for a few years given the massive investment in the OLine. Unfortunately, that line’s still malfunctioning and unless we become able to grind out possession we’re in for a long few years. We can’t even afford to draft best player available this year – there are just too many holes to have the luxury to draft like a well run team.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Forget signing a free agent NT from Jets or any other non-Steelers team – remember how long it supposedly takes to learn LeBeau’s system. Maybe thats why they still rolled out Hampton the last couple of years, & I mean rolled.

    If they had played McLendon more last year, maybe $2.5 mil if thats what Packers offer, Steelers matching would not be overpaying McLendon

    A few years ago Packers picked up a guy Steelers felt was worth nothin & he contributed to Packers, FB John Kuhn.

  • SteelSpine

    Makes sense for McClendon & Packers:
    – Costs NO draft pick.
    – Packers’ Dom Capers is from the Cowher=LeBeau school, & their LB coach Kevin Greene could be on the way up. McClendon a veteran of good age, & has been quiet trooper who hasn’t been in trouble.
    – Packers more-easily afford Mac. Steelers no cap room for it (yet), maybe the Colon savings June 3rd but Steelers probly have other needs for Colon’s $.
    – Packers have many NT bodies but: Raji to be FA after this season, a NT of theirs is 33 done, & they have a NT drafted rel high but hasnt panned out & Pack doesn’t wait as long to develop players.

    McClendon is probly just using Packers for leverage for a deal, because McClendon has to see how clogged Packers are at NT. But all is fair.

    If Steelers match a several-mil $ deal, finally we’ll get to see what I & many others clamored for which is more playing time for McClendon. Because Steelers aren’t going to sit anyone costing several mil $ for that year. Then if Ziggy leaves (ie via FA offer after this yr) hopefully I’ll get to see what damage McClendon can do from a DE position:}

  • joed32

    >5 isn’t a huge savings and if GB doesn’t make him an offer then he signs for a lot less.

  • NW86

    Shrewd move by the Packers. They waited it out until the Sanders move happened, then when they knew the Steelers were out of cap space, they suddenly are taking a look at McClendon.
    For all those wondering what the other RFA’s were waiting for to sign their tenders, this is why they waited. There is absolutely no incentive for them to sign early – you wait until the deadline just in case a team suddenly comes calling.
    Even if the Pack offers $2.5M for McClendon, I think the Steelers have to match. They’ll have to restructure someone, pushing another $1M or so into next year, which isn’t ideal but they’ve already done a lot of it, $1M more isn’t going to kill them.

  • If Steve does end up going, it would be wise to bring Hampton back for one more year to show the young ones the ropes. Even though he is a few years past his prime, I think he can still hold the point of attack. To me, Steve is more of a rusher as opposed to a guy that can absorb two blockers in the run game. It would be a big gamble for the Packers to throw that much money at an otherwise unproven guy.

  • JohnnyV1

    Of all the RFA’s, he’s the one they could not afford to lose based on available options, particularly now. I saw DL Sammy Hill from Detroit (now w/ Titans) as a solid potential for the Steelers D-line. He could have been had for the salary slot (first year salary) being talked about here. Putting the low tender on McClendon was too risky, if they were not going after another guy. They should have played McClendon more last year and, based on his play, give him a long-term contract, or move on. They botched this one, regardless if the Packers sign him or not.

  • steeltown

    I knew this was going to happen… two guys I feared losing to FA as RFA’s (Sanders and McLendon) and the last two weeks have supported my fears.
    Crazy to think another 700,000K (2nd Rd tender) wouldve most likely secured him for the season, but whatever {sarcasm} we’ve only been grooming him for 3yrs, he’s only a projected starter on Defense

    This will certainly shake up the draft board, a week before the draft, not that there wasnt enough positions of need already…. If you cant tell, I’m starting to get frustrated

  • steeltown


    I dont want to change my avatar AGAIN.. I previously had Keenan Lewis

  • Hopefully he will not leave. That would be twice this year you would have to change your avatar right?

  • Pete

    I’m going to go counter to all this wailing. We are smarter than the Steelers front office? If McLendon is offered a contract by Green Bay that the Steelers can match, so what? They went with the low tenders in order to avoid restructuring more players because they are in salary cap purgatory. And they felt that was what McLendon was worth. If they decided not to match an offer and let him go then they’ll do what they have to do. It’s not like McLendon is the second coming of Hampton. The Steelers made a tactical decision and will live with it no matter how it shapes up.

  • steeltown

    Bingo… and I’ll blame myself for jinxing, ha!

  • David Edward

    Hi Pete, I’m generally a supporter of the FO and think for the most part they make good choices. No FO is perfect though. Even the best make questionable moves sometimes. I think it’s reasonable to wonder why they wouldn’t have offered McClendon the $2M second round tender if they thought he was going to be their starter. Maybe they are trying to work out a long-term deal with him and figured they can get him at a cap number lower than $2M for ’13 as part of the deal. If they don’t see him as the starter then why even tender him? They could have done what they did with Sylvester (which was a smart move by the way).

  • steeltown

    I agree.. though I dont want even talk about it, you’re right, Ta’amu and Fangupo learning from Hampton for year would be ideal

  • mokhkw

    Pack could be looking at McLendon for starting DE in a 3-4. Both of their starting DEs are less than impressive imo & McLendon would be an upgrade.

  • KEEPING lebeau and his 6 year apprentice program is starting to kill us on defense. we will have 3 secondary players starting that are over 30 , we will have a de, ilb, over 30 starting on defense and a guy 29 going to be 30 at olb.
    that is what happens when you quit making football decisions and start keeping buddies around, good god we are back to the days of the chief. It took less time to build the atom bomb and put a man in space than it does for lebeau to give a young guy an equal opportunity.