While Antonio Brown was introduced by the Oakland Raiders and Le’Veon Bell agreed to terms with the New York Jets, their former team had its customary ho-hum start to the new NFL calendar season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers announced no splashy signings Wednesday, not even the reported three-year contract with former Kansas City cornerback Steven Nelson. They merely put out a news release welcoming back punter Jordan Berry and backup outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo and another confirming the draft picks acquired in trades involving Brown and right tackle Marcus Gilbert to the Arizona Cardinals.
In other words, all was quiet on the South Side front.
Contrast that to the West Coast, where Brown conducted his introductory news conference with the Oakland media, an event worthy of a live NFL Network telecast. The Steelers received third- and fifth-round selections in the April draft. It wasn’t the “significant compensation” general manager Kevin Colbert sought, but it provided extra pieces he desired for this draft class, which “we think is a draft that is beneficial to have as many picks as you can get.”
The Steelers will have four of the top 83 selections and 10 overall.
On the opposite coast, the Jets were putting the finishing touches on a four-year, $52.5 million deal with Bell that includes a $28 million signing bonus and $35 million guaranteed.
Per custom, the Steelers haven’t shelled out any exorbitant contracts this winter, although Nelson agreed to a reported three-year, $28.5 million deal and outside linebacker Bud Dupree’s $9.2 million fifth-year option became guaranteed at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
That could change in the coming days.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is entering the final year of his contract, is in line for an extension, which team president Art Rooney II and general manager Kevin Colbert called an offseason priority.
If the Steelers don’t get Roethlisberger to put pen to paper before Friday, they will owe the 37-year-old quarterback a $5 million roster bonus. That is money the Steelers would like to convert to a signing bonus that they can spread throughout the life of his next contract, which could span four or five seasons.
Roethlisberger will count $23.2 million against the $188.2 million salary cap unless his deal is restructured. The $17 million in cash due to Roethlisberger this season also is low for a veteran quarterback with three Super Bowl appearances and two championships.
Roethlisberger’s salary is tied for No. 12 among quarterback earnings for 2019 and his $12 million base salary is No. 15. Among average annual value, Roethlisberger’s $21.875 million figure ranks No. 13. To get Roethlisberger into the top five would necessitate a pay hike to at least $27 million.
How the Steelers structure their franchise quarterback’s final contract could determine the rest of their free-agency plan as they contemplate signing a wide receiver, inside linebacker or special teams contributor.
According to NFLPA figures, the Steelers entered free agency Wednesday with $9.9 million in cap space. That doesn’t account for the $4.9 million they saved in the Gilbert trade. It also doesn’t include the cap figures for the Nelson, Berry and Chickillo contracts.
The free-agent strategy for the Steelers is to keep their own, and they did that by retaining unrestricted free agents Tyson Alualu, Ramon Foster, Chickillo and Berry. They also extended the contract of center Maurkice Pouncey and offered tenders to restricted free agents B.J. Finney and Xavier Grimble.
Next up is Roethlisberger.