Former Steelers ‘Hostage’ Signing With Texans: Report

Steven Nelson

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Cornerback Steven Nelson of the Pittsburgh Steelers knocks the ball away from Willie Snead of the Baltimore Ravens on October 6, 2019 at Heinz Field.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Steven Nelson was once labeled the team’s most underrated player, but that’s not the way most fans remember him. In March 2021, the Steelers terminated his contract less than an hour after he implored the team not to hold him “hostage,” making reference to a phrase often used by head coach Mike Tomlin, who in recent years has been known to say: “We can’t do this with hostages. We need volunteers.”

On Wednesday April 13, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN indicated that the Houston Texans are signing Nelson to a two-year contract worth a total of $10 million, a signing that has also been reported by Brooks Kubena of the Houston Chronicle.

That’s actually a bump in compensation compared to what Nelson earned in 2021, having inked a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles that paid him a $4 million salary, as per overthecap.com.

He went on to start 16 games for the Eagles, during which time he was responsible for 50 tackles (34 solo), plus seven passes defensed and an interception.

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The Texans Are Steven Nelson’s Fourth NFL Team

Nelson, 29, entered the NFL as a third-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015, having played his college ball at Oregon State. He spent the first four years of his career with the Chiefs, recording four interceptions in 52 games (with 38 starts), playing well enough that the Steelers gave him a three-year deal worth $25.5 million, one of the richest contracts awarded to a free agent acquisition in team history. Nelson went on to start for two years at right cornerback, paired with fellow cornerback Joe Haden in what Nelson described as a ‘Batman and Robin’-type partnership.

Though Nelson played effectively during the 30 starts he made in Pittsburgh, the Steelers felt compelled to release him while he still had a year remaining on his contract. Nelson subsequently described himself as a “cap victim,” as the move allowed the Steelers to save his $8.25 million salary, critical funds in a year in which the salary cap went down to $182.5 million. (This as compared to the $200 million-plus that was expected in 2021 before the pandemic hit.)

Three weeks ago, former Steelers slot cornerback Mike Hilton encouraged Nelson to join him in Cincinnati, having left the Steelers in free agency in March 2021, inking a four-year, $24 million deal with the Bengals. Yet Nelson gravitated to the Texans, who were very much in need of a proven, veteran cornerback.


The Steelers Are Getting Younger at Cornerback

Meanwhile, the Steelers look to be moving on from longtime CB1 Joe Haden, 33, who remains an unrestricted free agent.

In March 2022, the team signed former Buffalo Bills starter Levi Wallace, 26, to a two-year, $8 million contract, with Wallace subsequently stating that he chose Pittsburgh after getting a “sign from God.” That addition followed on the heels of the team re-signing depth cornerback Arthur Maulet. In addition, the Steelers have since re-upped with Ahkello Witherspoon, 27, who was acquired in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks in September 2021. Pittsburgh will be sending Seattle its fifth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

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