Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 Offseason Preview

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a season that no one expected, going 9-7-1 and making the playoffs eventually falling to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round. With a season surrounded by controversy, Ben Roethlisberger‘s potential retirement, Chase Claypool and Mike Tomlin had a small argument about music in the media. The season didn’t go as smoothly as expected, but reaching the playoffs was a surprise that no one saw coming. With the news of general manager Kevin Colbert stepping down after the draft, the team needs to find a replacement for him. While Colbert will be an advisor for the team, he won’t be in charge of running the show anymore, which has some people worried about the future.

Make sure to check out all of our other NFL Offseason Previews.

Pending Free Agents 

With the Steelers having a hand full of essential starters or role players becoming free agents, along with having $31.5 million in cap space per Over The Cap, the team needs to focus on retooling the team to better support whichever quarterback is the starter. With 21 players set to hit the open market and some essential contributors needing to get signed, the rest of the free agents are bottom-of-the-depth chart players or fringe starters and might not get brought back. Additionally, with other backup role players potentially leaving the team, the money spent will be put into the defensive side of the ball and on the offensive line while trying to keep the players they want back.

JuJu Smith-Schuster 

With Smith-Schuster set to hit the open market again after testing his luck last offseason, it’s safe to assume that he will want a fresh start on a new team, but the question remains if he will get the long term contract he sought after last year. His season was cut short due to a shoulder injury that required surgery and held him out half the year. While he returned to the Steelers on a one-year contract for the 2021 season, it was primarily due to no team offering him any more than the Steelers. If he gets a long-term deal from another team, it’s safe to say that he will leave the organization.

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Joe Haden 

While Haden has been a productive member of the Steelers these past five years, it would not be very reasonable to think he hasn’t shown his age. With Haden going to be 33 in April and his best years behind him, it’s hard to imagine that he will be back with the team if he is looking for a multi-year contract. However, if Haden gets a contract of around $3 million a year for two years, it might not be harmful to bring him back to the team. While Haden might be long in the tooth, it doesn’t mean he can’t be a productive player for the team.

Eric Ebron 

The team drafting Pat Freiermuth in the second round last season to be the next tight end has made Ebron a little expendable. While Ebron and Freiermuth make a great combo together, it’s unnecessary to have Ebron come back. If Ebron does come back, it will most likely be because he has taken a little less off his salary than he would have gotten. So while he may be a nice piece for two tight end sets, and as a verticle threat tight end, he might be an expendable piece if he wants a more significant contract.

Potential Cap Casualties 

With a little over $31 million in cap room, the team won’t have to make unnecessary cuts to keep or sign free agents. At the same time, the Steelers have a few tricks up their sleeve to free up more money. With room to bring in a few key starters and role players in this free agent period, we have to look at a few players that could become cap casualties.

Zach Banner ($5 Million Saved) 

While the Steelers need a lot of help on the offensive line, Banner could see himself playing for a new team. While this won’t be a move that they make right away, it’s a move that they have in their back pocket in a break glass in case of an emergency. With Banner having a subpar year saving the $5 million to bring in a better player couldn’t be a terrible move the team could make to have it happen.

Joe Schobert ($7.8 Million Saved) 

Schobert was a midseason addition to add veteran depth to a position group with many injuries. Now that the season is over and the players have a chance to get health, Schobert’s isn’t needed anymore, making him expendable. While he played very well with the team for the remainder of the season, there is a strong chance that he doesn’t get brought back, saving $9.3 million if cut post-June 1 is a very intriguing idea that the team has to consider.

Chris Boswell ($3.3 Million Saved) 

The long-time kicker for the black and gold has struggled these past few seasons, and this might be the offseason the team sees the long-time kicker move on. While Boswell won’t be saving the team a lot of money, if the team can find a replacement equal to or better than Boswell, he may be looking for a new team. With Boswell being 30 years old and not having the leg he used to, along with the team more than willing to move on from veterans before they are expired, he could become a cap causality.

Open Market Free Agent Targets 

The Steelers have a few needs the team must look over in the coming month. With holes on the offensive line, wide receiver, and defensive back. With a pretty deep free-agent class for all of the positions that the team needs, it’s not unrealistic that the team will open their pockets and spend money on multiple roles. Bringing in numerous different free agents for many different positions will allow the team to be competitive and easier to transition from a rookie quarterback or any veteran they may get.

Cam Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars 

This past season, Robinson has been a very productive tackle for the Jaguars, only giving up one sack the entire year on 856 snaps. However, he has shown that he is deserving of a more significant contract. With the need for a tackle that can hold his own, Robinson fills that hole for the team and give the offensive line a much-needed makeover. Per Pro Football Focus, Robinson had a 67.4 overall grade during the season, with him missing four games this season, bringing his grade down, he is still one of the better tackles in the league and deserving of a payday.

Alex Cappa, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Cappa has been a very productive player for the Buccaneers the past few seasons and one of the better interior linemen in the league. With Cappa only being 27 years old, he will likely get a pretty big contract this free agency. He has earned it by giving up one penalty, and five sacks on 1,182 snaps are more than adequate for any team to have on the interior of the line. Additionally, receiving a 74.2 grade from the whole season from PFF makes him a player that the Steelers should go hard after.

Kyle Fuller, Denver Broncos 

Fuller has been a serviceable corner for the Broncos ever since he got there. However, the team spending a high first-round pick on Patrick Surtain has made Fuller expendable. With Fuller more than likely the odd man out, the 30-year-old looks for a new team, and Pittsburgh might be the place. With holes in the cornerback room, veteran presence and experience is just what Fuller could bring to the table. While he is over the 30-year-old mark, that doesn’t mean he can’t play anymore and could play a much-needed rotation role in the slot or on the boundary.

Previewing the 2022 NFL Draft 

The only pick the team doesn’t have this year is their fourth-round pick, but they have an extra seventh-round. With the 20th pick in the first round this year, the Steelers have many options. The team can take one of the quarterbacks that will be there when they pick, or they have the opportunity to trade up. The team also could negate the position altogether and focus on building up the team and take one next year. Either way, the team has plenty of options with Colbert having one last draft look for him to cement the legacy and make a splash.

Round 1, Pick 20: Offensive Line 

With Kenyon Green more than likely being a later first-round pick, the Steelers are in an excellent position to take him with their selection. The Texas A&M star guard has more than proved himself this past year with his ability to play both tackle and guard on either side. With the potential for the Steelers to take a player like Green and have him as their franchise guard for a decade, it can’t be an opportunity the team can pass on. However, the potential for the team to not love a quarterback in this class is very high, and with the risk of setting the franchise back years, the team could wait until next year to draft one.

Round 2, Pick 52: Quarterback 

With a lot of people having Desmond Ridder going in the high to the middle second round, the Steelers very well could trade up to take him. With the 52nd pick in the draft, there is a possibility that the team won’t have to, but if Colbert decides that Ridder is the guy moving up, a few spots won’t hurt in the long run. While the team would be spending a top pick on him, it wouldn’t hurt the team if he turns out not to be the guy. However, Ridder possesses the best athleticism in the class, which has some promise. He would be a project pick with a high upside and a mighty arm. If he doesn’t pan out, spending a second-round selection wouldn’t kill the franchise.

Round 3, Pick 84: Cornerback 

With the team needing help in the secondary, round three is where they need to start looking. With Eastern Carolina Ja’Quan McMillian hopefully still available, he is the perfect player to slide right into the secondary and be an impact starter right away. McMillian totaled 56 tackles and five interceptions, one being a pick-six. He is a more than willing tackler who is excellent in coverage and possesses good ball skills. McMillian is a perfect player to take and start with a need for youth and talent in the back end of the defense.

Early 2022 Expectations

The Steelers have a good team and found a way to make the playoffs even with Roethlisberger being a sub-par player most of the season. Whether they have a rookie or a player like Mitch Trubisky at the helm, the team and the organization are good enough to keep afloat while they search for the next franchise guy. With Tomlin having a winning record 15 seasons in a row, it will take a lot to go wrong for that record to fall. The Steelers have the talent to be an above .500 team, making or breaking the season. If the team gets just an average player at the quarterback position, it will be enough for them to have an exciting and successful season.

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