* We won’t know if/how much Green and/or Harris will contribute to the 2016 Steelers, and it’s going to be the sum of their contributions that determine how these signings are judged, but what can be said now is that the additions of Green and Harris fit the pattern. At least, the recent pattern.
* Any report indicating that Kelvin Beachum was driven away from the Steelers by the team’s signing of Harris has things backward. The Steelers’ preference would have been to keep Beachum, and to keep him with a contract extension that would’ve gotten done a year ago, but that wasn’t going to happen because of a basic disagreement on the player’s value, even before the knee injury.
* Since the current system of free agency tied to a salary cap came to the NFL for the 1993 season, the Steelers have been able to navigate those waters fairly smoothly by adhering to some principles. One of those, and maybe it’s the most impactful one, involved the maintaining of a salary scale among the various units on a team. This was designed to limit the chances of jealousy taking root in the locker room and sabotaging a season or poisoning a particular group of Steelers against each other.
* The way it works is something like this: Back when free agency began, the Steelers’ three best players were Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd, and Dermontti Dawson. Each was a homegrown All-Pro, and each was the most highly-paid at his position within the Steelers locker room, and so everybody else learned that no defensive player was going to make more than Woodson, no linebacker more than Lloyd, no offensive lineman more than Dawson.
* So now it’s 2016, and who deserves to be identified as the Steelers’ best offensive lineman?
* Pouncey being selected first-team All-Pro twice already shows what football people think of him, because there is only one center on the first-team All-Pro team every year, and that earns him the distinction of being the Steelers’ best offensive lineman. Pouncey’s current contract does not pay him more than $7.5 million in any season covered by the deal. The contract Kelvin Beachum signed with Jacksonville yesterday has been reported as a one-year deal worth $4.5 million that can become a four-year, $40 million deal provided the Jaguars are satisfied with Beachum’s return from a torn ACL.
* Four years for $40 million works out to an average of $10 million per year, an average this is more than $1 million more than Pouncey’s average salary, which has been reported as a five-year, $44.1 million contract. Because Pouncey has been a first-team All-Pro twice already and Beachum hadn’t even made a Pro Bowl, those kind of numbers weren’t going to work for the Steelers.
* Welcome to Pittsburgh, Ryan Harris.
* Getting a veteran offensive tackle with starting NFL experience on both ends of the line of scrimmage – and doing that within their parameters while adding an individual who brings the correct attitude to his new situation – represented a significant accomplishment during this phase of the player acquisition period.
* The NFL announced
* With that clarified, the ramifications of Bryant’s suspension can be divided into the on-field category and the real-life category. The on-field ramifications for the football team are not nearly as critical as the real-life implications for a young man who won’t turn 25 until late December.
* It’s certainly disappointing, frustrating, borderline annoying to lose Bryant from an offense that could have been in the conversation about the best units in the league in 2016, in the conversation about the best offenses in franchise history. Maybe there would have been better, more dangerous, groups of eligible receivers in the NFL next season who were contributing to a better, more effective offense in the NFL next season, but that seems hard to believe had Bryant been part of a group that would have included him along with
* Even so, deleting Bryant doesn’t impact the last six names listed in the above paragraph, and those six alone should provide the Steelers with all the offensive firepower they will need to have the kind of offense necessary for a team to compete for a championship.
* The other issue has to do with the real-life ramifications for Bryant, who has had to have failed and/or missed a half-dozen or more drug tests in the time between the 2014 Scouting Combine and now. Clearly, Bryant is at a professional crossroads, and getting his own life together is going to have to come first.
* There are reports that Bryant has entered rehab, and it’s a certainty both the NFL and the Steelers will be watching that process closely. The NFL will be watching, because Bryant will have to be reinstated by the Commissioner before he’ll be allowed to resume his pro football career, and the Steelers will be watching because theirs will be a decision of whether to stick with Bryant through this or cut ties with him.
* The guess here is the Steelers don’t give up on Bryant until he gives up on himself, and Bryant failing to change his behavior would constitute him giving up on himself.