The Pittsburgh Steelers have often found themselves busy in March in recent years, but that has generally come before the start of the new league year, just to get in cap compliance. This year was a bit different, as the team was able to actually add some pieces from other teams, including a new starter at safety.
But, naturally, there was some house cleaning to take care of first before the March Madness could begin. In order to get cap compliant, the Steelers did release three players: Levi Brown, Curtis Brown, and Larry Foote. Foote is, of course, the significant departure of the bunch in terms of on-field contributions, but the bulk of the savings came from Levi Brown, who never played a down for the Steelers.
In addition to the small handful of terminations, the Steelers also worked out two-year cap-friendly extensions with tight end Heath Miller and safety Troy Polamalu, virtually assuring that they will retire in Pittsburgh, all the while helping ease the cap burden for this season.
The last big chunk of savings came courtesy of cornerback Ike Taylor, who agreed to a $4.25 million pay cut from his $7 million base salary. That allowed the team to fit in the big fish of their offseason plans, the transition tag applied to free-agent-to-be outside linebacker Jason Worilds, worth close to $10 million.
No doubt, retaining his rights was the cornerstone of their March Madness operations, which allowed them to part ways with LaMarr Woodley. As a post-June 1 release, his cap relief won’t come for another couple months, but it allowed the Steelers to spend virtually to the last drop in March.
They began, unsurprisingly, by filling some of their own holes, re-signing safety Will Allen, long snapper Greg Warren, tight end Michael Palmer, and offensive linemen Guy Whimper and Cody Wallace.
In contrast to recent years, however, the Steelers were able to add a number of pieces from outside the organization, though some were in response to moves they were unable to make internally.
The failure to match the two-year, $5 million offer that Jerricho Cotchery got, for example, prompted the Steelers to strike a deal with Lance Moore at a more cost-efficient rate. Likewise, with the departures of Ziggy Hood and Al Woods, the Steelers added Cam Thomas at two years, $4 million—less than Woods’ contract.
The big outside free agent signing, of course, was new free safety Mike Mitchell, who is expected to take the place of Ryan Clark after eight years of service. His five-year, $25 million contract came just hours into the beginning of free agency, with other teams in the hunt for his services, and generally took everybody by surprise.
Toward the tail end of the month, the Steelers continued to plumb the depths of the free agency market to shore up depth, adding the versatile inside-outside linebacker Arthur Moats and, most recently, finding a complement to Le’Veon Bell to replace Jonathan Dwyer, adding LeGarrette Blount to a two-year deal worth upwards of $4 million.
Now that April is upon us, however, the focus for most of the league is assuredly shifting toward the draft, which even though it no longer takes place in that month is still the next major benchmark of the offseason. The Steelers had a very productive March, however, which sets them up well for what’s coming up next.