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Looking At The Decision To Move On From Larry Foote


The Pittsburgh Steelers releasing offensive tackle Levi Brown was just a matter of time. The organization’s decision to move on from inside linebacker Larry Foote at the same time was somewhat unexpected, though not entirely surprising.

After all, the Steelers played almost all of the 2013 season without the aging signal caller, having handed the keys to the defense over to then-rookie Vince Williams. He gradually acclimated to the defense, and by the end of the season seemed to be fitting in just fine both on and off the field.

Outside of Williams, the Steelers still retain the rights to Kion Wilson and Terence Garvin, and there is always the possibility of 2012 third-round draft pick Sean Spence contributing in some capacity this year.

Make no mistake, however, that this move above all else was about Foote—not Williams, not Spence.

Having gained insight into the post-Foote world last season, the Steelers were able to take a step back and realize that his knowledge of the defense wasn’t enough to justify keeping him around when they were ready to move on.

When Foote was originally brought back in 2010, he played sparingly as the top reserve inside linebacker, and performed admirably. Come 2011, the Steelers were beginning to phase out long-time Buck linebacker James Farrior by rotating Foote in, who still played well in his more limited snaps.

When the Steelers released Farrior in 2012, Foote took over the Buck position, and rarely came off the field. The performance that he turned in, however, was often wanting, replacement-level at times. He was overmatched by the speed of today’s tight ends and running backs in coverage, and he became increasingly stuck to pulling guards on running downs.

The beginning of the 2013 season was, unfortunately, more of the same, as guards Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack repeatedly drove him out of holes for Chris Johnson and Jackie Battle.

Foote was the greatest liability in run support in this game, which included missing two tackles. More often than not, though, he was simply blocked out of the play. The misfortune of his eventual injury toward the end of the game was a blessing in disguise by forcing the Steelers to move on.

Though his release said nothing about a failed physical, it’s possible that the team was concerned with how his biceps tear would impact his play on the field. Either way, it’s hard to make the argument that he was a cap casualty.

Foote’s cap number for this season was under $2 million, and his release left two-thirds of $1 million in dead money. It’s not much more of a blip on the overall cap meter. What this tells me is that the Steelers were ready to move on.

The team has a recent history bringing back players that they’ve cut, however, such as Stevenson Sylvester, who was re-signed mid-season. Quite frankly, I don’t see Foote having much of a market, including the possibility of the Steelers bringing him back on a veteran-minimum contract. Unless they experience an unusual rash of injuries at the position and Foote keeps himself in shape in-season, I wouldn’t expect to see Foote back.

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About Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Paddy

    Larry Foote is a man’s man. I admire him greatly as a player and a father

  • steeltown

    Will miss Larry Foote.. but I am excited about the potential of Williams and Garvin.. and the possibility of a Spence return

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I do disagree some. If the Steelers felt uncomfortable with who is left on the roster Foote would still be here. Colbert has said he felt good about what Williams did last year and that was the sign that Foote was in trouble and that we probably will not draft an early ILB.

  • Chad H

    There will be a mad dash in the draft for T, DB, WR and pass rushers that guards and ILBs will be abundant to pick in later rounds. We could get a great ILB in the fifth rd this year.

  • Caesar

    No we can’t. Abundance doesn’t equal quality. The ILB group is really thin, you won’t find anyone above Vince Williams level that late. But then I’m happy to just let them move ahead and let Williams stay in there with the other guys rotating in.

  • Callentown

    Mosley, if he’s there.

  • Chad H

    I don’t see more than 3 ILBs being taken in the 1st 2 rds with only 1 taken in the 1st. So that should leave plenty sliding back. There should be good quality in later rounds.

  • James Kling

    I can’t see any other team rushing a contract to Larry Foote’s doorstep. He’s still on speed dial for a one-year vet min deal if needed. If not, why tie up the money?

  • NW86

    I disagree on the “cap casualty” aspect. You act as if the $1M plus was pocket change, but every million counts. We are talking about a team that will likely be within $1M of the cap come September, so it matters. I also disagree on the likelihood of Foote coming back. My guess is that the Steelers asked him to cut his salary to the vet league minimum, and Foote said, “I’d respectfully like to check the market first”. So the Steelers obliged. If no one offers Foote any more money, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them re-sign him at the minimum for depth.

  • srdan

    I am in the minority, but I feel good with Williams as the starting ILB next year.

    We have been screaming for rookies/2nd year starters, and we have one, now people want to draft someone for the position (mosely). Let williams have an offseason to work on coverage technique and in the weight room.

    Truth be told, I am a huge fan of his demeanor on the field. It has been missing for a while. In todays NFL your defense will give up big plays, but it’s much easier to stomach when were laying out punishment. Cam up front, Williams behind him and the Shark in the back would give us a young nucleus of outstanding people and tenacity on the field. I will take the growing pains for a year. Let it be and draft a corner (Dennard) to add some more toughness.

  • shawn

    i like the idea !

  • JohnB

    They, as always, made the right move. Foote was long in the tooth and had a year away from play because of injury. What were we to do? Hope he gets back to being average at best while playing in real games? I did enjoy his time with us though. He’s a good guy.

  • srdan

    He is very talented, but we are in need of help and youth in the secondary.

    IMO, let Williams get a shot. Second year LBs take huge strides. Could bode well to have him and Jarvis grow up in the system together. There will be growing pains, no doubt, probably more than with Mosely. But there is somethign I really like about williams. He could grow into a good vocal leader on teh defense. Which we all know is missing. I am not saying that mosely can’t do that, but I think the pick could be more helpful elsewhere.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I agree with you V Williams should be a much improved starter this year.

  • dkoy85

    I like Williams a lot too. He has a fire unmatched on the D. If it translates into his play then he will be a thumper.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Yup, and this is why I’ve been saying I don’t expect an ILB drafted in the first few rounds.

  • steeltown

    Yea I think OLB is a much more prevalent need even if we have Worilds and Woodley on roster this year because next offseason Woodley and Carter could both be gone

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Exactly why I said early in the year that they should let the young guys play. Look at the big bonus you get out of it. You get to evaluate and easily decide who is expendable and who gets another shot. Move on.

  • srdan

    I don’t think you can apply it the same across the board. In general I think we should do more of it, but for example Curtis Brown gave TDs up in preseason like they were going out of style. Nothing better to use to grade people than real gametime

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Agreed, but Williams play was as they say, “Above the line” for a rookie. JJ got the play, and others. It helps to know a little more about your players. Even if a guy plays like a donkey. at least you know he’s gotta go.

  • woodyherman

    Larry was the first to point out issues within the team and his backing up the pot remark by Clark did not endear him to the Rooney’s.
    He will go down as one of the key players on a defense that helped put the Steelers back in the Super Bowl. For that he will be welcome into any tavern or function in the Steel City. Once a Steeler always a Steeler.

  • ATL96STEELER

    We might be in the minority, but let’s say it’s growing. Two reasons I don’t want Mosley…#1 is Williams…he developed nicely and while he may not be a blanket in coverage, he showed that he can be effective in the DEF.

    #2, Mosley will certainly be faster, but he’s going to have the same learning curve that we’ve already invested in Williams with no certainty that his upside will be greater.

    Foote’s time is up…he knew where to be, makes the routine play, but when he had opportunity to make splash plays, difference making plays, he rarely came through.

  • srdan

    On that I agree as well. Seeing other young guys around me performing well would give me confidence as well. I hope it happens more.

    I think we are in line for 3 second year starters in teh base defense and if we can get one of the top corners, there is a possiblitiy they would get a lot of snaps.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I’m unclear as to where you’re disagreeing with me. Are you referring to the fourth paragraph?

  • Callentown

    I don’t disagree.

    But think of it this way.. Say Timmons goes down week 2. Then what?

    We not only have a question in Williams as a 3-down LB, but no depth as well. If the LB’s are the strength of the defensive philosophy, it’s time to get strong there.

    I won’t cry, however, if we draft a CB in rd 1 either :)

  • Matthew Marczi

    The Steelers are prepared to have around $14-15 million in space just by restructuring the contracts of Antonio Brown and Lawrence Timmons, renegotiating Ike Taylor’s contract, and coming to a long-term deal with Jason Worilds. On his salary, if they wanted him here, they would have kept him. As it is, he’s still counting two-thirds of a million in dead money. He’s gone because they were ready to move on, and it would take a long list of injuries to bring him back.

  • srdan

    That is a tought question, what if he does go down. He is a leader on this team. But you could say what if any leader on this tea goes down, then what….

    Dave and dave discussed this on teh podcast today. It’s hard to build a team that way if you can’t count on your starters to be healhty. Hence why moving on from 56 is a good idea!

  • Shannon Stephenson

    yes.

  • Brendon Glad

    He was an admirable player. Nothing but respect…and still not ruling out a return if the open market treats him with similar worry that the Steelers have. There is no question that while the Pouncey injury created a “stunned atmosphere” that was easily seen….the loss of Foote in the same game was another one that took a LONG time to get over. Some would say they never did. But I understand the move. And who really ever recovers well from a biceps tear in the front-7…History says few do. (Unless we are counting 3 games from Ray Lewis).

  • Jazz

    Larry Foote was never appreciated by so many of the Fans in Pittsburgh. I can’t argue with the F/O decision, again, time to move on. Larry Foote was one of my favorite players, I wish him well.

  • Callentown

    Ya man.. I haven’t listened yet, but planning to.

    The defense is thin across the board. It looks like Gilbert will be gone at 1.10. Suddenly, Mosley is sliding a bit in mocks.

    Feels like if we added him, the LB unit is set for some time. I THINK I also read he can play OLB too.

    More a value need than the highest need, which has to be CB.

  • MC

    Grateful for what Foote has done for this team. Hopefully they front office are confident in Williams which led to this decision.

  • Superdriller316

    What happens if Worilds or Jones go down week 2? Then who, Chris Carter? OLB is the most important position on the defense. If you can’t get to the QB, I don’t care if you have the best corners in the NFL, they can’t cover for more than 5 seconds and will get burnt. I don’t feel good about Worilds or Jones and we need someone to push them for starting jobs. We can’t have what we had with the OL where jobs were given and not earned. We need an OLB early, 2 CB’s, WR, FS, DE and a RB. Like Tomlin said, they need to better insulate themselves against injuries. If Atlanta cuts their FS he might be worth kicking his tires. I read that he was a zone type FS and could be a cap cut.

  • sean mcmartin

    And add the possibility of Joey porter adding some more motivation as a coach..I like it..

  • Steve

    Can say the same about 2013. Who would have thought Foote and Pouncy would go down? If this was last year we would al be saying “Who would replace them?” Did we have a backup centers, NO, but we went on and found two.

  • Steve

    Think you mean Suggs tore his bicept and so did Ken Norton and both played.

  • Callentown

    I take it you’re assuming Woodley will be gone. I don’t know that he will. If he IS gone, it might be better to bring in an experienced FA to back them up vs another rookie…IMO.

    Also, after Mack and Barr, there isn’t an OLB who will match the #15 pick from a value standpoint. Possibly Ford from Auburn, but he just made it into the first round.

    Mosley is rated as the 2nd best LB and we need both inside and outside LB.

  • Callentown

    You’re right Steve. But we also lost four straight games and losing the play-callers on offense and defense had to play a big part in that.

    By the end of the year, we were a better team. But those early losses took us out of the playoffs.

  • Brendon Glad

    Pretty sure suggs tore his achilles, but all im really saying is that it’s an injury that is a career wrecker…not saying no one ever sets foot on the field again after it. Just usually not very well.

  • Will Hammer

    I liked what I saw in williams .He made mistakes but improved as the yr went on . I liked his attitude and demeanor . Look for another backer maybe 2 in the draft..

  • Will Hammer

    Maybe if someone gets hurt ..

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