Tuesday was a day of serious offseason action for the Pittsburgh Steelers who saw two players leave in free agency and one who decided to join the team after winning a Super Bowl in Denver.
The Steelers saw a fan favorite take his talents to Jacksonville while one of the ‘behind the scenes’ guys left for New York. Kelvin Beachum, a former seventh round pick who made himself into one of the better and more consistent left tackles in pro football, signed a deal that could pay him up to $6 million this coming season.
On the other side of the ball, the Steelers saw nose tackle Steve McLendon leave for the New York Jets. His deal is for $12 million over three years. Since replacing the great Casey Hampton at nose tackle, McLendon has been a steady and fairly dependable player for the Steelers especially against the run. The Steelers reportedly offered him a two-year deal but at age 31 it appears he was looking for something more and found it.
The loss of McLendon as of this writing is the bigger of the two losses. I say this because of how thin this leaves the defensive line. Dan McCullers elevates to the nose position but he’s unproven and besides, it seems clear the Steelers are in the midst of a defensive overhaul with more four-man fronts.
The loss of Beachum hurts because of his consistency and positive presence in the locker room. His absence doesn’t hurt as much due to (see below) and the growth of Alejandro Villanueva. I also learned this week that Mike Adams has dropped weight and is as healthy as he has been in quite awhile. Where he factors in is unclear but he’ll have an opportunity to compete there’s no doubt about that.
After flirtations with former Seattle offensive tackle Russell Okung, the Steelers signed former Denver Bronco Ryan Harris. His deal is worth $3.9 million dollars over two years. When Broncos’ tackle Ryan Clady was lost for the season Harris stepped in to start every game for Denver. He is a better pass blocker than he is a run blocker but under the tutelage of Mike Munchak I would expect both areas to improve.
I do not believe Harris is coming in to start. He will be given the opportunity to battle Villanueva for the job but I see ‘Big Al’ as the favorite right now. The most important thing about his signing is that it now gives the Steelers solid depth at the position. Considering the ACL injury to Beachum, I think the Steelers weren’t 100% convinced about his return. A healthy Harris and Villanueva will now wage an entertaining battle for the left tackle spot. Harris can play both tackle spots by the way.
Photo courtesy milehighreport.com