Odds are, you’re already out partaking in some St. Patrick’s Day festivities, so if you’re lucky, you won’t even remember this: according to ESPN’s Field Yates, 7-time captain and 7-time Pro Bowl special teamer Matt Slater is in Pittsburgh today for a visit.
Yes, that type of visit: a free agency visit.
Source: Patriots free agent Matthew Slater, a seven-time Pro Bowl special teamer, is in Pittsburgh visiting the Steelers today. Intrigue amongst top AFC teams.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 17, 2018
How do we feel about Slater potentially joining the Steelers, fearless leader Rich?
This is a 10 out of 10 on the potential heartbreak scale. https://t.co/PwbKNrCqxw— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) March 17, 2018
...which in turn makes Goose look like he started observing St. Patrick’s Day way too early.
Still got some cap space to play with, so I'd expect Slater re-signs and some more linebacker depth, and in the world I'd like to live in, that includes @MFlowers59— Matt/Goose (@SomeCallMeGoose) March 17, 2018
What’s particularly interesting about this is it’s not like Pittsburgh’s special teams units suck; to the contrary, Pro Football Focus actually graded the Steelers special teams as slightly better than the Patriots (11th in the NFL vs 13th, respectively). If you prefer Football Outsiders DVOA rankings, the Patriots special teams rank 3rd in the NFL, while the Steelers still check in at a more-than-respectable 9th.
The real kick below the belt here is that Slater’s currently the third-longest-tenured Patriot on the team, right behind Stephen Gostkowski (12 seasons) and slightly ahead of Julian Edelman (9 seasons). The 2017 season was Slate’s 10th with the team, and if you’re like us and watch those “How do we feel about a victory!” locker room videos as soon as they come out every week, you know how loved Slater is. He’s the locker room’s older brother, never too low after a loss, always hype when he needs to be, and the man won the 2017 Bart Starr award, a league-wide trophy for a player that “represents character and leadership both on and off the field”.
Depending on how optimistic you are, this could be a classic case of the Patriots letting a respected veteran go out and find out what his value is...or a classic case of the Patriots letting a player walk a year too early instead of a year too late.
[UPDATE 03/18, 9:45 pm ET] According to The Athletic's Mark Kaboly, Slater left Pittsburgh without a contract.