Two National Football League teams committed $21 million to sign a pair of defensive ends from a run defense that ranked in the bottom half of the league in 2013.
And while the Steelers weren't interested in chasing Ziggy Hood in free agency -- especially at the price the Jacksonville Jaguars paid for his services (four years, $16 million) -- they would have preferred to keep backup Al Woods from signing a two-year, $5 million contract with the Tennessee Titans.
But they didn't know Woods was all but sneaking out the back door on them.
The Steelers, apparently, were unaware Woods -- an unrestricted free agent -- was going to visit other NFL teams. According to a team source, they had told Woods to let them know if he were planning to shop himself around because they would have preferred to re-sign him and keep him from visiting other teams.
By the time the Steelers realized Woods was in Nashville, it was too late.
Granted, Woods has been nothing more than a backup for two seasons. But, with the departure of Hood and the team's reluctance to re-sign veteran Brett Keisel, the Steelers will have lost three of their top five defensive linemen from 2013 -- creating a huge void that has already forced them to start re-stocking the position.
After allowing an average of 115.6 yards rushing per game and finishing 8-8 for the second year in a row, perhaps new bodies and a new approach is not a bad thing. It is the second-highest rushing average the Steelers have allowed since 1970 and 53 yards more per game than they allowed in 2010 when they set a club record with a per-game average of 62.8.
Losing defensive linemen has become a recurring theme for the Steelers.
Since the end of the 2011 season, they have parted with Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Chris Hoke and Alameda Ta'amu, in addition to Keisel, Hood and Woods, from their defensive line. That has left them with only three players from last year's 53-man roster -- defensive end Cam Heyward, a former No. 1 draft choice and a rising star in the league; nose tackle Steve McLendon, who could be better at defensive end; and backup nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, who was inactive for 10 of 16 games.
The Steelers signed former San Diego Chargers defensive tackle Cam Thomas (6-3, 330) in free agency, hoping he can help solve the problems they had in the middle of their rush defense. And they have two youngsters who did not play last season -- Nick Williams, a seventh-round draft choice who sat out the entire season with a knee injury, and rookie free agent Brian Arnfelt, who showed some promise in training camp.
There is always the possibility the Steelers could re-sign Keisel as a third-down player, though they are reluctant to do that because he will be 36 in September. But the upheaval on the defensive line has been so drastic that they will have to do a lot of re-stocking in the May draft, probably starting as early as the second round.
It's possible the Steelers will consider Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III in the first round, giving them much-needed help in the interior. But it's more likely they will start looking for linemen in the second round, and the top possibilities are Minnesota's Rashede Hageman (6-6, 310) and Oregon State's Scott Crichton (6-3, 273) -- both defensive ends.
Pitt's Aaron Donald, who could be the second defensive lineman selected in the draft, is projected as a 4-3 tackle and does not fit the Steelers' scheme.
Either way, the Steelers have to rebuild their defensive line. They will start with bodies. Then they have to work on rebuilding the confidence that their once-proud defense can stop the run.
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter: @gerrydulac