Armed with biggest free agent contract in Steelers history, Steven Nelson settles in during OTAs
Steven Nelson wasn’t the biggest catch on the NFL’s offseason free-agent market, and he’s hardly a household name among casual fans. But he does hold the distinction of earning the biggest contract the Pittsburgh Steelers have given to an outside unrestricted free agent in their history.
While that certainly carries caveats that inflation pushes salary up every year and that the Steelers rarely are big players in free agency, it does portend a level of expectation for Nelson in his first year with the team.
Nelson's $8.3 average yearly value is the highest they've ever extended to a free agent in Steelers' history.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) March 12, 2019
So far, so good, his teammates say.
Nelson, as expected, has been working with the first-team defense as an outside cornerback through the first week of organized team activities.
“He’s been a great addition,” cornerback Mike Hilton said. “He stepped in, he’s learning quickly, he’s been productive, he’s challenging receivers. He’s a guy who can really help us.”
Rise and Grind!! @Nelson_Island
— Mike Hilton (@MikeHilton_28) May 21, 2019
Signed to a three-year, $25.5 million deal in March after he had four interceptions for the Kansas City Chiefs last season, the 26-year-old Nelson entered the league in 2015 and became a starter the following season.
Nelson said former Oregon State teammate Marcus Wheaton – a third-round pick by the Steelers two years before Nelson entered the league – gave a solid reference for what to expect from the organization during Nelson’s free-agency decision-making process.
“The organization’s past history, man, very deep rooted in football,” Nelson said last week. “The whole town is big on football, and I think the Steelers have a big tradition in football.”
Nelson joins veteran Mark Barron and first-round pick Devin Bush as key offseason additions to a Steelers defense that has finished among the top six in the NFL in yardage allowed each of the past two seasons.
“It’s very contagious,” Nelson said of the mindset among the defense. “Guys have high energy, guys want to be great, they want to win.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .