Thanks to some salary cap tricks, the Pittsburgh Steelers sit in a spot where they can sign an additional outside free agent or two. Entering the off-season, this would have been a pipe dream. But, due to surprise player departures, team-friendly contracts, and various restructures/extensions, Pittsburgh sits in a decent spot. Currently, they have about $6.5 million in effective cap space. While that’s no huge number, it’s enough for the Steelers to sign one good player or potentially a few serviceable depth pieces.
Three Free Agents Who Could Benefit the Pittsburgh Steelers
This move could make a lot of sense. After losing Mike Hilton in the off-season, Pittsburgh is in desperate need of a slot cornerback. The way the roster currently stands, a rookie is expected to assume that role. Robey-Coleman could come in and be the starter right away. Despite having a bit of a down year in 2020, Robey-Coleman has been considered one of the best coverage slot cornerbacks in the NFL for years. He really emerged during his tenure with the Los Angeles Rams. Last year, he was not in a good situation with the Philadelphia Eagles. Being surrounded by the talent in Pittsburgh’s secondary could help boost Robey-Coleman to a turnaround year.
Contractually, it would be no problem for the Steelers to fit Robey-Coleman onto the books. Projections on the higher-end have him expected to earn around $1.5 million this year. At that rate, Pittsburgh could get a likely starter and still add an additional depth piece or two at other positions. This feels like a low-risk, potentially high-reward move for the Steelers. A strong slot cornerback can be a huge boost in today’s NFL; and, if the move wouldn’t work out, Pittsburgh wouldn’t have much of an investment made in Robey-Coleman.
Of all these free agents, Morgan Moses would be the most difficult for the Steelers to sign. While they could probably squeeze a contract in, there would not be much financial flexibility remaining if they were to sign Moses. It could be a moot point, anyway. Moses could very likely demand a bigger contract than the Steelers could possibly afford. Teams who need a tackle and have a little more cap space than Pittsburgh should be all over Moses. He had a phenomenal 2020 campaign and could be a starting tackle on a lot of teams. At 30 years old, he won’t be getting a long-term contract, but he still has plenty of football left in him.
If the Steelers could manage to sign Moses, he could be a starting right tackle right away. Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor are expected to be the starting tackles in 2021. That’s not a promising pair, especially for a team with an older quarterback who has declining mobility. While pass blocking hasn’t been Moses’ strong suit, he would still likely be the best pass-blocking tackle on the roster. He’d also be a huge boost to the Steelers running game, in which they’ve invested heavily this off-season. If the Steelers were to sign any of these free agents, Morgan Moses would be a good one to pursue at any cost.
Due to the Steelers history of signing outside free agents, this move is not at all likely to happen. Signing outside free agents over the age of 30 is not their cup of tea, to say the least. Further, the expectation is for Houston to sign a bigger contract than the Steelers could afford. However, that’s no guarantee. The fact that Houston remains un-signed is a surprise in itself. This could mean that NFL front offices are not as high on Houston as analysts are this off-season. If that drives his contract value down enough, Pittsburgh would be wise to reach out.
Even if Houston’s market value took a hit, the Steelers would not be giving themselves much flexibility if they squeezed Houston onto the books. So, all things considered, this move is by far the least likely of the three to happen. A much more likely move would be for the Steelers to pursue cheaper depth at the position. Houston is still capable of starting on many teams and the Steelers don’t need a starter. But if his market value ends of being that of a high-end depth piece, the Steelers could make it work.
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