Free agency hasn’t even kicked off, but the Steelers have been busy making moves over the last week, moves that came with rapid fire action.
It began with the team placing the exclusive franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell. Bell, who would have become an unrestricted free agent this week, received a one-year tender for the average of the salaries of the five highest-paid running backs in the league for the current year. With the exclusive designation, Bell can’t negotiate with other teams. The team has indicated multiple times, though, that the goal is a long-term contract with Bell.
The same day Bell was tagged, Antonio Brown signed a new five-year contract. Brown was in the final year of his current deal, and the team came through on a promise to re-sign him this offseason.
“It means everything,” said Brown. “It’s the team that gave me an opportunity from Day 1. You put the helmet on you have the chance to do something special.
“I am extremely thankful. You have to have a vision. You have to think positive things for yourself. You have to continue to dream. This is one of the things I dreamed about five, six years ago. I want to continue to dream and be motivated and continue to grow.
“I can tell you the work that goes in pays off. Working smart, working hard, always being ready when the opportunity presents itself.”
It didn’t stop there. Linebacker James Harrison, who would have become an unrestricted free agent, was signed to a two-year deal. The Steelers’ all-time leader sacker will be in black and gold through the 2018 season.
“It was easy,” said Harrison after signing. “That is what both parties wanted and we were able to come to an agreement.
“It’s home. It’s the only place that I really wanted to be. It’s where my family is. It’s a great organization.”
The week closed out with Ryan Harris announcing his retirement on social media. Harris, 31, signed with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent last year, but was placed on injured reserve after suffering a leg injury against the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 2.
Here is a rundown of everyone who was signed after the season ended:
Running back Le'Veon Bell - Placed franchise tag on him.
Linebacker Akil Blount – Blount, the son of Steelers’ Hall of Famer Mel Blount, signed with the Miami Dolphins as a undrafted rookie free agent in 2016 but didn’t play last season.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown - Signed a new five-year contract.
Running back Brandon Brown-Dukes - Was on the Steelers practice squad in 2016.
Long snapper Kameron Canaday – Spent time on the Arizona Cardinals roster in 2016.
Cornerback Brandon Dixon - Was on the Steelers practice squad in 2016.
Linebacker Greg Ducre - Spent time with the San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins on practice squad and active roster in 2014 and 2015. Also spent time with the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League.
Linebacker Jason Fanaika – Fanaika signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2016. He spent time on the Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins practice squads.
Offensive lineman Kyle Friend – Friend spent time on the New York Jets practice squad in 2016.
Offensive lineman Matt Feiler - Was on the Steelers practice squad in 2016.
Safety Jacob Hagen - Was on the Steelers practice squad in 2016.
Tackle Ryan Harris - Retired.
Linebacker James Harrison - Signed to a two-year contract.
Cornerback Mike Hilton - Was on the Steelers practice squad in 2016.
Defensive lineman Lavon Hook - Was with the Steelers during the 2016 offseason.
Punter A.J. Hughes – Signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the New Orleans Saints in 2016, but didn’t make the final roster.
Linebacker Farrington Huguenin - Signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2016, but was waived/injured before the start of the season.
Cornerback Devonte Johnson – Johnson, who played at Weber State, signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2016, but was released before the start of the season.
Running back Gus Johnson - Was on the Steelers practice squad in 2016.
Linebacker Steven Johnson - Signed a one-year contract to avoid becoming a free agent.
Offensive lineman Mike Matthews – Matthews, who is the son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, signed with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2016.
Offensive lineman Keavon Milton - Was on the Steelers practice squad in 2016.
Defensive lineman Roy Philon - Was with the Steelers during the 2016 offseason.
Running back Dreamius Smith - Was on the Steelers practice squad in 2016.
Wide receiver Dez Stewart - Was on the Green Bay Packers practice squad in 2016.
Wide receiver Marcus Tucker - Was on the Steelers practice squad in 2016.
Long snapper Greg Warren - Signed a one-year deal to avoid becoming a free agent.
Running back Karlos Williams - Was on the Steelers practice squad in 2016.
Running back Trey Williams – Williams came into the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Washington Redskins in 2015. Williams, who played at Texas A&M, also spent time with the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts.