Jan 11, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) runs against the Indianapolis Colts in the second half during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Free Agency: Will Offseason Deals Turn Into Steals For Pittsburgh Steelers?

Nov 10, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore (16) against the Dallas Cowboys prior to a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have bucked tradition this offseason, using free agency to get younger. And they have done so at a penny-pinching rate.

Out went the salaries of Ryan Clark, Larry Foote, LaMarr Woodley, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Brett Keisel (may re-sign), Ziggy Hood, Al Woods and Curtis Brown.

They did hold onto three of their other veterans: Ike Taylor agreed to a salary reduction and Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller both signed three-year contract extensions

Free Agent Additions & 2014 Salary

Free Agent Losses & 2014 Salary

$2.2 million($5.2 guaranteed) Mike Mitchell Jerricho Cotchery $2.5 million
$1.5 million Lance Moore Emmanuel Sanders $5 million
$2 million Cam Thomas Al Woods $2 million
$795,000 Arthur Moats Ziggy Hood $6 million
$1.9 million LeGarrette Blount Jonathan Dwyer $795,000
$9.75 million (tag) Jason Worilds LaMarr Woodley $6.15 million

Total Cost = $23.145 million

Total Cost = $22.445 million

Total Team Cost= $13.145 million*

*After adding $8 million June 1st by cutting Woodley and $2 million by reduced contract of Ike Taylor

Worilds won the right outside linebacker spot, leading to Woodley’s move to Oakland. It was pricey choice for the Steelers, as they tagged Worilds for $9.75 million while they will be paying Woodley to play in a Raiders uniform. Hopefully, Worilds will sign a long-term contract to regain some cap space.

The Steelers also chose youth on the interior defense, cutting locker room favorite Foote. Rookie inside linebackers Vince Williams and Terence Garvin broke the defense’s tradition of keeping first-year players on the bench. Their struggles hurt the defense early on but they showed signs of progress.

They will be joined by Sean Spence and perhaps Moats in the competition to start alongside Lawrence Timmons. To improve this defense, the Steelers need to shake out a solid signal-calling assistant for Timmons.

Ex-Buffalo Bills linebacker Moats took a one-year deal on the cheap, signing with a team rich in linebacker history. Moats is hoping to copy his new teammate Mitchell by turning a one-year “chance” into a rich contract. 

The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder has moved from 3-4 OLB to 4-3 DE to 3-4 ILB in his short career. The defense has openings at both linebacker spots, so Moats’ ability to play special teams makes this a utility pick-up with potential.

And then there is the aforementioned Mitchell. He was the first and most expensive outside acquisition for the club. The Steelers need more electric plays out of their secondary beyond Polamalu. Mitchell is a tough, smart and young free safety who plays the ball well. Mitchell had four interceptions last year in Carolina.

The Steelers’ free agency spree included only two offensive newcomers. After losing Cotchery to Carolina, they added former New Orleans wide receiver Moore. Moore should give Roethlisberger a reliable veteran, and he signed for two million dollars less than Cotchery. Moore also gives Todd Haley a receiver who can run the reversal faster than a nose tackle (unlike Cotchery).

Speaking of nose tackles, the Steelers made up for the loss of Woods to Tennessee by signing ex-Charger Thomas for a similar contract. Thomas will try to fill an open spot on the line which is currently comprised of the newest defensive leader, Cameron Heyward, and second-year starter Steve McLendon. Both Thomas and McClendon can play tackle and end, and it still leaves a spot for Keisel, who at age 34 was a more productive at defensive end than either player.

The Steelers final move was trading out Dwyer for Blount. Blount signed a modest two-year contract, choosing the Steelers over the Ravens and Patriots. No AFC North team will enjoy facing Bell and Blount twice a year. And hopefully, this ends the goal-line “Bell ringers.” Blount had seven TDs last season; Dwyer didn’t record one. 

The Steelers replaced most of their offseason losses. They will still need the draft to recover depth at receiver and defensive line. And those 10 new draft picks will continue the effort to reconstruct the Steelers’ financial future.

Tags: LeGarrette Blount Mike Mitchell NFL Free Agency Pittsburgh Steelers

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