The Pittsburgh Steelers Make A Move
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Tuesday, March 15, 2007
By Mike Spell
Steelers Fever Columnist
The Steelers announced that they have signed free agent lineman Sean Mahan, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to a five-year deal.
Mahan has played both guard positions as well as center during his four-year career. This is a great acquisition for the Steelers. Mahan gives the offensive line greater stability and flexibility. The coaching staff now has several options at right guard and center. They could start Mahan at center for the recently retired Jeff Hartings. Or they could move Simmons over to center, as has been widely rumored, and put Mahan at guard. A third option is to start Chukky Okobi at center and have Mahan as an insurance policy. It makes little sense, though, to sign a player to such a hefty contract to be a backup. Whatever the plans of the coaching staff for the use of Mahan, it is a good signing with big implications.
First, Mahan is a player who Mike Tomlin knows well from their days together at Tampa. Tomlin knows what he is getting. While that is important, it is more significant that Mahan knows Tomlin. Mahan had many suitors, including the Buccaneers, and he chose to go with Tomlin and the Steelers. This shows the kind of respect that players have for Tomlin and his abilities as a coach. If Tomlin did not know what he was doing, or was seen as a jerk, it is doubtful that an offensive player would want to sign on. And please don’t bring up money as a significant factor as a lot of teams have money to burn and would have paid a similar amount to sign Mahan.
Second, it shows the importance that this coaching staff puts on the offensive line. Teams simply cannot win with a weak line. It all starts up front. If you cannot block, you cannot win, no matter how imaginative the scheme or talented the skill players. The offensive line was ineffective last season to say the least. Baltimore had its way with them twice. If the Steelers are going to take back control of the division, they are going to have to address protection issues. Mahan is a step in the right direction. This signing tells us that Tomlin sees a problem and is willing to take steps to fix it.
Third, the Steelers signed a free agent who is entering his prime and should be entering the most productive years of his career. This is opposed to signing a player whose better days are most likely behind him and the team signs him more as a public relations move and end up eating the final years of a contract. Mahan has started over thirty games in the NFL and knows what it takes to produce. He should be a productive player for the entire length of his contract. This signing is a shrewd move by the team.
Fourth, this move shows that the Steelers are willing to spend money. They are being selective and not overpaying for a player just to show fans that they are willing to spend money. They are signing players that they have targeted, whom they feel will fit in well with the scheme and are not making a move out of panic or for public sentiment. This is a continuation of team philosophy and it has been successful in the past.
The Steelers traditionally look to free agency as a supplement to the draft, not as its primary source of talent. The only other attempt to sign a player thus far was the signing of a punter to an offer sheet, which was matched. The real interesting time for the Steelers should be the draft, as there are many interesting options for the team. Will they address their receiving core and attempt to get Ben Roethlisberger another weapon? Will they try to add a speedy, pass rushing end? A linebacker? Cornerback is also a need, as the pass defense last season got burned consistently?
Let the speculation begin!