Say hello to panic, his name is Levi Brown

During the 2007 Major League Baseball season the Pittsburgh Pirates were well on their way to a 94-loss season. It was just another lost season in a seemingly never ending line of lost seasons (Good news: The line came to an end this season!).

During that lost season the Pirates made what was perhaps the most random and pointless trade in franchise history when it sent outfielder Rajai Davis to the San Francisco Giants for Matt Morris. It wasn’t that Davis was a great player (he wasn’t) or a top prospect (he wasn’t). It was that the team was terrible and Matt Morris was not only terrible himself, but also came with a huge contract that would see the Pirates pay him through the following season.

It was clearly a desperate panic move by then general manager Dave Littlefield in an effort to save his job. It did not work as Morris continued to be terrible, the Pirates continued to be terrible, and Morris was released early in the following season.

That’s the only transaction I can think of to compare to the Steelers decision to trade a conditional draft pick to the Arizona Cardinals for offensive tackle Levi Brown on Wednesday.

It just doesn’t make sense.

Yes, the Steelers have some massive holes on their offensive line and the two turnstiles occupying the tackle positions are at the front of the line. Yes, that is a problem. But is this the solution?

There are several problems with this move:

1) Levi Brown stinks by pretty much every measure, whether you’re talking about the eye test (JJ has been raging about this move on Twitter) or the analytics. Pro Football Focus has him as only marginally better than Mike Adams and both of them are among the bottom-10 offensive tackles in the NFL.

2) He’s not cheap. According to Alan Robinson of the Tribune-Review, the Steelers will assume the remainder of Brown’s five-year, $30 million contract. If there is one thing the Steelers don’t need, it’s another big contract attached to a guy that consistently plays “below the line.”

3) The Steelers should be trading players for picks, not the other way around. In hindsight it’s looking like a terribly short-sighted move to not take a third-round draft pick over the summer to allow Emmanuel Sanders to go to New England, and that was before the team lost its first four games of the season, pretty much ending their playoff chances for 2013. This is worse than short-sighted. This is terrible. I know a late-round draft pick isn’t likely to be a regular contributor (especially based on the Steelers drafts over the past couple of years), but I’d still rather have the four percent chance that pick turns into a useful player than be stuck with Levi Brown and his contract. The Steelers need more draft picks, not less. They need less bad players, not more.

4) Levi Brown was so bad in Arizona the Cardinals were reportedly prepared to cut him before the trade.

I’m not sure what’s happening around here anymore. The Pirates are winning playoff games. The Steelers are terrible and making insane roster moves.

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  • Eric

    I’ll admit I’ve been annoyed with others for freaking out about a down year. It’s the NFL. Between statistical anomalies (small sample sizes) and the system setup to punish the successful, a down year should happen every couple of years. I wasn’t worried though because the Steelers organization is pretty damn good and I figured they’d work through it quickly.

    But this move has definitely shaken my confidence in their decision making. Between this trade and keeping Sanders, I’m worried that a pattern is developing. I don’t think the front office has lost the ability to evaluate players. I think they might have lost their perspective of where the organization currently stands. They’re making dubious short sighted moves as if there are only minor problems that need a quick fix instead of real, long-term structural problems that need to be addressed. That is worrying to me because there is potential to continue with destructive short-term behavior until finally admitting that changes need to be made. Considering how much the organization values continuity and incremental moves (or perhaps viewed another way, stubbornness), it could be awhile before they admit it.

    • Cols714

      Yeah. This exactly.

    • David

      I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a Tomlin thing. Don’t get me wrong, I like Coach T.

      Cowher and Co. whiffed on Jamaine Stephens. The past few years, it looks like we whiffed on several (Adams, Hood, Worilds, etc.).
      Do you guys (and girls) think that maybe Coach T’s influence had a part in this?

  • dennisdoubleday

    I think the Pirates were forced to pick up the Matt Morris contract or the league was going to fine them heavily for not spending the minimum amount on salaries

    • Randy Steele

      I find the whole Matt Morris = Levi Brown disputation absolutely silly.