The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How many of the Steelers’ remaining available unrestricted free agents will re-sign with the team?
As of this morning, the Steelers still have 10 players remaining from the original 19 who became unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year. They have re-signed five of them, most recently outside linebacker Cassius Marsh, and most notably wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Four have signed elsewhere, including cornerback Mike Hilton and outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
Those remaining still run the gamut as well, including Pro Bowl starters in left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and running back James Conner, as well as punter Jordan Berry, linebacker Avery Williamson, safeties Jordan Dangerfield and Sean Davis, quarterback Joshua Dobbs, outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott, and offensive linemen Jerald Hawkins and Danny Isidora.
Of those 10, I would immediately eliminate Conner, Dobbs, and Elliott. If they manage to bring back Villanueva, then Hawkins isn’t needed. Isidora I wouldn’t mind bringing back as veteran interior depth. One would assume that Berry returns as well, and they will probably re-sign at least one of the safeties. So far, it doesn’t appear Williamson has had a market, so if he could come back cheap, that would be a welcome possibility.
Overall, however, outside of Villanueva, this is obviously not a group of players they can’t necessarily do without. It seems they’re set on getting a running back out of the draft, for example, and they’ve already dumped Berry once, while Dwayne Haskins makes Dobbs a non-starter at quarterback.