Those paying attention have maybe noticed that it's been suggested here several times in recent days that the most important thing the Steelers can do this off-season is begin the process of getting their salary cap in order. It has become an almost annual rite of late winter that the Steelers restructure multiple player contracts to get under the cap. As has been pointed out by many, this only exacerbates their problem.
Yes, it gives them temporary relief. But that temporary relief has resulted in one playoff appearance in the past two seasons, a loss, and an 8-8 record in 2013.
If ever there were proof that the Steelers current philosophy is half-ass backwards and a direct about-face from the policy that brought them so much success, it is the free-agent period that begins next week. The philosophy that served the Steelers so well for so long was to sign their own and not worry about free-agents, particularly the high-priced variety that so many teams found so tempting.
Well, here we stand on the brink of free agency and the Steelers are dead-certain to lose the player, aside from Ben Roethlisberger, they can least afford to lose -- wide receiver Mike Wallace.
The Steelers have lost plenty of free agents in the past, but rarely in positions of need. The core of their philosophy was to keep their own. But because of their policy of restructuring, restructuring and restructuring they don't have the fiscal means to do what they've always preached.
They absolutely will not be able to keep Wallace and stand a good chance of losing starting cornerback Keenan Lewis.
Imagine that: A team with no running game and a franchise quarterback allowing its best receiver to leave via free agency.
How important is Wallace to the Steelers?
According to ESPN, ``No player in the NFL has more 40-yard receptions since 2009 than Wallace (27) and his 16 touchdown catches of 40 yards or longer are also an NFL-high over that span. Since 2009, no other Steelers receiver has more than five 40-yard catches (Hines Ward, who retired before last season) or two 40-yard touchdown catches (Antonio Brown).’’
Not only are the Steelers losing one of the most dangerous wide receiver in the NFL, they have no one to replace him. Even if Brown returns to his 2011 form, and there’s no guarantee of that, he’s a No. 2 receiver, not a No. 1, not a replacement for Wallace.
The Steelers fiscal strategy is so cockeyed that their free-agent spending likely will begin and end with cornerback William Gay, a player the 5-11 Arizona Cardinals did not want.
The Steelers need to be able to use all methods of player procurement to replenish their talent base and not just the draft. Let’s not forget they have made key free-agent acquisitions in the past -- Jeff Hartings, James Farrior, Ryan Clark -- that have been highly instrumental in their success.
But management appears to lack the fortitude to make the hard decisions to get the cap back in shape to avoid the annual despertion moves of late winter.
It’s a formula the Steelers once would have quietly ridiculed and one that they now foolishly embrace.