Steelers Free Agent Departures Piling Up

While the Pittsburgh Steelers have signed seven free agents from outside the organization, they have now lost eight of their own free agents in the process, having come in with 22 free agents in total.

Granted, few of them went on to sign contracts of any significance, or are expected to play a big role with their new teams, so you shouldn’t get your hopes up about future compensatory draft picks for next season, but I digress.

The loss of eight free agents of their own further attests to the roster turnover process that is under way following two .500 seasons. The 2013 roster already featured significant turnover from the 2012 season, and 2014 appears to be more of the same.

The two most notable free agent departures are, of course, Emmanuel Sanders and Ziggy Hood, both of whom have signed multi-year contracts worth totals in excess of $15 million each. Sanders signed with the Denver Broncos and Hood with the Jacksonville Jaguars after the Steelers showed no interest in retaining them.

The most significant free agent loss after those two, as far as monetary value is concerned, was the signing of Jerricho Cotchery by the Carolina Panthers, which prompted the Steelers to make moves elsewhere and have since brought in two more receivers.

Al Woods also signed a two-year contract worth a couple million per season, which was another loss that forced the Steelers to take action to make up the difference, signing Cam Thomas to take his place.

Tight end David Johnson was signed by the San Diego Chargers early on in the free agency process on a two-year contract, while running back Jonathan Dwyer decided to head to Arizona rather than staying in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers lost two more free agents recently as well, the more notable of the two being safety Ryan Clark. Clark has spent the past eight seasons starting at free safety alongside Troy Polamalu, having played several seasons at a Pro Bowl level before seeing a steep decline in play a season ago.

Clark talked during the season about his belief that he was not at the point in his career where he had to settle for veteran-minimum; however, time has a way of changing people’s minds, as that is just the type of contract that he signed with the Washington Redskins.

The last loss began as an exclusive rights free agent, but after the Steelers failed to offer him a contract, interior offensive lineman Eric Olsen became an unrestricted free agent. He signed yesterday with the Tennessee Titans. The Steelers are already stacked on the interior of the offensive line and could still re-sign Fernando Velasco.

Combined with the six free agents that the Steelers re-signed, Pittsburgh still has eight remaining unsigned free agents, most notably among them Brett Keisel, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and Velasco, all of whom may yet return in 2014.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Nolrog

    Honestly, I don’t really have a problem with the turn over. The defesne has under performed expectations for three years (yes, they were rated highly in terms of yards allowed for some of that time, but the lack of turn overs and long 3rd down conversions were an issue.) This year, they have turned over some of the defense, and while it may or may not have a huge impact, they aren’t standing pat with the same players.

  • Kurt Williams

    They missed the playoff the last two years and were knocked out by a Tebow (yikes) led Broncos team the year before. Roster changes were inevitable, hopefully these changes are upgrades.

  • grw1960

    True on the comp picks. There seems like there was a lot of free agent signing activity around the league this off season. And with only 32 being handed out each year, lower salary FA signing losses , may not get a team in the comp pick discussion

  • Kenneth Wilt

    There are very few starters in this list, so I’m not too stressed about it.

  • steeltown

    I think some are downplaying the Mitchell signing, he will undoubtedly have some growing pains, but he adds some serious speed and youth to the secondary. Obviously we need to add some youth to the CB position and they will via the draft, but the main concern I have is the front 7, and mainly OLB and whomever is playing opposite Heyward.. but lets make no mistake this is NOT a new problem we’ve been struggling to find consistent play upfront for a few yrs now. We are finally starting to see a transition in all phases.. just a few more pieces to the puzzle

  • treeher

    Clark and Foote both said they wouldn’t play for minimum, but of course they’d say that, otherwise they’d effectively negotiate against themselves. Same with the Beard.

  • Steve

    Being out of the playoffs the past 2 years, changes had to be made. Our Defensive needed to get younger with an influx of drafted players and free agent mix. The FO and Tomlin knew this and slashed the roster to address this problem.

  • treeher

    Thanks for reminding me about losing to Tebow. I had almost succeeded in erasing that from my memory, although the therapy was getting expensive.

  • steeltown


  • cencalsteeler

    This is a transition that needed to take place. We all acknowledge we held on to the Super Bowl squad trying to squeeze one more run out. Unfortunately, we stood still and aged while the rest of the NFL got younger. Call it rebuilding, rebooting, or whatever you like… it’s time to make up for lost time and get back to playoff football.

  • srdan

    Not only did we get younger, but a lot faster. I really like the addtition of blount coupled with the two WRs. Pound then playaction with speedsters.

  • Steve

    Ridding the team of players who didn’t perform well or who were hurt too often was needed. Players don’t make big bucks sitting on the bench. They perform up to their expectations and earn their money. On this site have been talking about getting rid of Woodley for years, waste of talent and money and someone finally listened. Keisel was also hurt at the end of the season, when he was needed the most. When a player gets older it is harder to perform a young mans sport. The older player does well at the beginning of the year but the wheels fall off and he is done.

  • Steve

    Cotchery and Sanders were WR starters. Clark and Keisel were also starters. Woods and Dwyer were excellent backups and Woods could have started if resigned. Velasco started before being injured. Cotch and Woods were probably the biggest losses and hardest to replace. Velasco can be resigned after his rehab is complete.

  • PoKey21

    If production counts for anything in the comp pick equation I don’t think we should give up on what Cotch can do this year in Carolina. He is by far and away their top WR, and with such a late pick in the draft the Panthers probably won’t be getting much more help. With Cam throwing it Cotch could easily rack up 8TDs and 1000YRDs in that horrendous WR corpse.

  • Maureen A Gomes

    I live in Castle Rock, CO and I’m reminded of the loss to Tebow at least once a week. Let’s just say that I was real happy with the Seahawks winning the SB this year while embarrassing the Broncos in the process. It still doesn’t erase that horrible memory though.

  • Maureen A Gomes

    Absolutely agree! Cotch right now is one of Carolina’s starting receivers. They missed out on Desean Jackson. I know, obviously, that they are attempting to add a few more veteran receivers but I think Cotchery is still going to put up higher numbers than he did here. As much as I seriously will miss him, I’m also really happy for him. He deserves this opportunity.

  • PA2AK

    true. His age will play against us as comp pick…but then again, no one REALLY knows the formula. He should have a great year there. I’d say his upcoming year with Carolina will be nearly the opposite of what he would have done had he stayed in Pittsburgh.

  • Steelers58

    Wouldn’t it be nice to dominate the line of scrimmage once again. We haven’t done that in about three yrs.
    Trade down and draft nix

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Clark and Keisel were starters, but we have replaced Clark and potentially upgraded at the position. Keisel I still expect back at some point (it wouldn’t surprise me to see Foote back at some point either should we not find guys in camp we like).

    Woods and Dwyer were backups. Thomas should be able to give us the same number of snaps as Woods gave us. Dwyer was more than replaced with Blount.

    Velasco was starting for us, but he wouldn’t be in our starter group if he came back this coming year. I mean Cody Wallace started a game for us, but that doesn’t mean he is a starter.

    Hood was only still starting because Keisel was injured as he was otherwise benched.

    Cotchery was a #3 WR, I don’t consider that position a starter, but if you do, I think Moore will be fine in that spot.

    Sanders may be able to be replaced and potentially equalled by Wheaton this year.

  • steeltown

    or Stephon Tuitt