The Pittsburgh Steelers had a surprising 2022 season that ended in heartbreak. In the same year the team was thought to be rebuilding, the Steelers went on a 7-2 streak to close the season and end at 9-8. They finished in eighth place in the AFC, one spot shy of making the playoffs. But their 2023 season could be equally as difficult as their 2022 campaign. While big strides in offensive production and an easier schedule are expected, one would think Pittsburgh would do well in 2023. But the Pittsburgh Steelers have 22 free agents this year and will need a big offseason to remain a winning team. They will have to part ways with many guys in order to save up future capital. That will mean having to make some tough decisions to try and make them a playoff team in 2023.
Free Agents The Pittsburgh Steelers Should Re-Sign
Skill Position Players (6)
The Steelers will have six offensive skill players who will be free agents: quarterback Mason Rudolph, running back Benny Snell, and receivers Miles Boykin and Steven Sims highlight this group. Tight end Zach Gentry and fullback/special teams player Derek Watt also have expired contracts in Pittsburgh. It is highly unlikely that the team brings back Rudolph, who doesn’t have a shot at the starting job anymore, or Boykin, who wasn’t that productive during the time he was healthy.
Benny Snell was a sound RB3 when called upon and is valuable on special teams, which means he could be re-signed. Steven Sims was a good return man and also finished the season strong at receiver, meaning he could very well be brought back. Derek Watt is also a pretty good fullback, scoring two touchdowns this year and being a valuable asset on special teams too. Gentry is replaceable as a TE3, with the future looking strong with Pat Freiermuth and Connor Heyward at the position. He is not a bad option to bring back but he hasn’t done anything exceptional in his multiple-year tenure in Pittsburgh.
For this group, I would only re-sign Snell, Sims, and Watt. As long as they take team-friendly contracts, it won’t be a bad move at all to bring them back. Although they won’t be super important or starters, they’re all important depth pieces to the team.
The Steelers will have three offensive linemen who are free agents. They are: guard Jesse Davis, guard Trent Scott, and center/guard JC Hassenauer. Both Davis and Scott were just depth pieces this year and neither saw much playing time; Scott was on the field for just 31 snaps and Davis never saw the field. Hassenauer only appeared in 4% of offensive plays and 16% of special teams plays but has been with the team for a while. Because he is versatile and can play both guard/center, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to bring him back. The offensive line is mostly solidified and none of these guys are part of that future. Hassenauer wouldn’t be a bad guy to bring back, given his value is only projected at $800,000. Scott could be brought back as depth but a strong draft would likely leave him without a job.
Front Seven (7)
The Steelers’ front seven was on-and-off all year. In some games, they were horrible and allowed opposing run games to literally run all over them. But in other games, the unit held together strong and kept most games within reach.
Larry Ogunjobi, Tyson Alualu, and Chris Wormley are the free agents on the defensive line. Alualu was pretty good two years ago but has not done much recently. Wormley had a pretty good “prove-it” year in 2021 but was impacted by injuries this year. I would personally re-sign him but it might not be in the best interest of the team, especially with a few younger guys looking for playing time at the position. Ogunjobi was a nice surprise for the Steelers this year, notching 25 tackles, seven for a loss, and 1.5 sacks. He would not be a bad guy to bring back but his $8 million estimated value could mean he is let walk, especially if they’re trying to preserve cap space for other areas.
The Steelers will also have four linebackers who are free agents. Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Malik Reed, and Jamir Jones are all set to test the market. Bush was fantastic in his rookie year but has struggled ever since his ACL tear in 2020. Spillane and Reed simply weren’t productive this year and that really hurts their case.
I would think that all four would be let go, but that would deal a serious blow to the linebackers group. Only Alex Highsmith and TJ Watt (Edge) and Myles Jack (LB) would remain. You can’t operate a team with only a few guys at that position. Pittsburgh could take a crack at re-signing Bush and drafting/signing two or three guys, but it won’t be cheap.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have two cornerbacks, Cameron Sutton and James Pierre, who are impending free agents. Sutton has become one of the best corners Pittsburgh has had in a long time. He should be a top priority to be re-signed. The problem is, is that he will be demanding tons of money due to the inflated cornerback market. He could likely want $8-10 million a year and that obviously won’t be cheap for the Steelers. He certainly deserves the money and is a top candidate to be re-signed, but his salary might sway the Steelers into finding other options. Pierre has struggled the past few years, as he is undersized and often gets beat off the ball. He isn’t much more than depth at this point, indicating he likely won’t be re-signed. But unless they find multiple secondary players this offseason, they’re going to need all the help they can get.
They also have four safeties that are hitting the market. They are: Terrell Edmunds, Damontae Kazee, Karl Joseph, and Marcus Allen. Allen and Joseph both are unlikely to be re-signed, given they played minor roles on the team in 2022. Kazee only had a shortened stint due to injury but had 20 tackles and two interceptions in less than half of a season. It was only his first year in Pittsburgh, but I think he has certainly earned a second contract. That leaves Terrell Edmunds, Pittsburgh’s most pressing free agent. The former first-round safety has been really good for them during his time here. Both parties have expressed interest in an extension and it seems likely to happen. As long as an appropriate contract is reached, expect both Edmunds and Kazee back in Steelers uniforms in 2023.
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