´ Steel Curtain Rising: Watch Tower: So the Steelers DID Try to Make an 11th Hour Signing After All

Who gets the game ball for the Steelers win over the Texans?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Watch Tower: So the Steelers DID Try to Make an 11th Hour Signing After All

Steel Curtain Rising has pledged to banish all talk of contracts and free agents until the off season, but that doesn’t have to mean that the media’s coverage of the issue is off limits….

In his Sunday column about the Steelers, the Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette reported that the Steelers had made a last ditch-effort to resign Marvel Smith to a long term deal before the beginning of their self-imposed regular season contract negotiation blackout.

During the final week of the preseason, the Steelers traded center/guard Sean Mahan back to Tampa Bay, and Steel Curtain Rising speculated at the time that they were attempting to free up salary cap space to resign a player. While the Steelers do not negotiate during the regular season, it was been their practice in each of the past years to make a final, 11th hour signing shortly before the first game of the year.

They resigned Hines Ward, Ike Taylor, Kendall Simmons in the final weeks of the 2005, 2006, and 2007 pre-seasons.

Bouchette reported that the Steelers did attempt to resign Smith, but that Smith rebuffed them in hopes of cashing in when he becomes a free agent in March of 2009.

Steelers Dodge a Bullet

Smith unwittingly did the Steelers a favor, at least it seems that way now. Smith missed the last several games of the 2007 season due to back problems, and underwent back surgery in the off season.

Both the team and Smith pronounced him to be back to 100% health. He started the season out strong, only to leave the Jacksonville game with back spasms, and has not returned since.

Smith is in his 30’s and his injury issues are mounting. There is little doubt that his value on the free agent market as dropped with each game that he has missed. Conceivably he could be facing the end of his playing days, although no one seems ready to make that pronouncement.

The Steelers offensive line is clearly their most glaring liability, and many (Steel Curtain Rising included) felt that they should have taken moves to shore it up, given that they face up to four potential free agent defections in 2009.

Had the Steelers committed serious money to Smith, they’d now be on the hook for a huge salary cap hit for a player who may no longer be a full time starter. They might decide to bring Smith back, but if they do, they will most certainly get him for far less money. Regardless, the money they did not spend on him will allow them to seek someone else.

Why Now?

The interesting thing about this from a media analysis standpoint is that we’re only finding out about this nine weeks into the season.

It’s a horrendous exaggeration to say “Steelers Nation has the right to know,” but this is real news.

  • Did Bouchette know about it at the time?
  • If so why not report it then?

If he didn’t, then why is he reporting it now?

  • Why are sources leaking it now?

In the larger scope of things this is a pretty small issue, but that does not make the questions any less interesting.

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