Every year at this time the free agent frenzy is in high gear as teams break open the check book to sign the top tier available players in hopes of turning around what was usually a subpar or flat out bad previous year. Who will win the Peyton Manning sweepstakes? Calvin Johnson’s megatron sized deal worth $132 million. Vincent Jackson’s new deal to join Tampa Bay worth $55 million. The list goes on and on as teams scramble to find that missing piece or pieces as the case may be.
Where are the Steelers in all this? Right where they always are, right with all the other consistently good teams in the league, biding their time while evaluating the draft talent and value free agents. It may sound funny to say that it’s nice to not have that big splash in free agency every year but considering the track record of teams like Pittsburgh, we can feel content in their place amidst all the craziness going on every March.
When you build through the draft, develop your players in house to fit what you do, there’s no need to go grab somebody else’s project. It takes a special team, a special front office; an ownership committed to the cause of doing what’s right for their team no matter what the cost. Sometimes that means cutting ties with a Super Bowl MVP like Santonio Holmes. Making the hard decisions to release a franchise icon like Hines Ward or a veteran leader like James Farrior. What makes it easier to handle though is being able to take heart in the fact that you never let a gaping hole develop on your roster. You know that guys won’t last forever and even the best of the best aren’t above the sum of the team. When a front office can continually draft players who turn out to be stars, you’re never completely dry in the talent pool and scrambling to fill holes every off season.
Santonio gets traded for a 5th round pick, in steps budding super star Mike Wallace. Hines Ward sees his career come to an end but Antonio Brown is ready to take the next step. Joey Porter leaves via free agency and both James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley have more than solidified the venerable outside linebacker position in Dick Lebeau’s defense. You can look back over history of the team and see similar moves that have allowed the Steelers to stay competitive every year.
Would it be nice to see the Steelers maybe go out and make a free agency signing at some point? Sure, who wouldn’t want to have Carl Nicks at Guard for example? At what price though, how much are you willing to give up as you try to fill positions that you neglected in past years? One or two players won’t solve all of your issues. Case in point, the Eagles last year and the so called “dream team”. Look at the franchises that make these splash signings; Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Miami, Chicago, Minnesota, St. Louis, all teams that struggle every year trying to find the formula that teams like Pittsburgh, Green Bay, and the New York Giants live by.
Even if the Steelers had the cap space to sign a free agent to a mega deal, it’s not how they do business and not how they will ever do business. It’s not that they don’t appreciate free agency or the talent pool that’s there, but rather it’s a different philosophy in doing business. Be frugal and responsible with your money, pay your own good players first and fill in the holes along the way as you develop the next big thing via the draft. It’s worked pretty well so far.
What would you rather have; the Steelers go out and spend $60-$80 million on free agents, getting into bidding wars while watching the price climb by the hour on just 1 player? Or be in the playoffs every year?
I’ll take the latter thank you very much.