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: Which of the Steelers’ three reserve edge defenders now slated to be free agents will they retain?
While the Steelers currently have six outside linebackers under contract, only two of those contracts extend beyond March 17 when the new league year begins. Fortunately, those deals belong to T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, so things could be worse. One of the expiring contracts is owned by Bud Dupree, and it will be a big challenge to keep him, needless to say.
Assuming that they do not, it’s likely that they will endeavor to keep at least one or two of the other outside linebackers who are set to hit the open market, including veterans Cassius Marsh, acquired late last season, and Jayrone Elliott, who has spent time with the team in each of the past two years.
The other linebacker is Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, a three-year veteran who was scheduled to be a restricted free agent. It has been reported that they will not give him a restricted tender, however, and it doesn’t sound as though they will be giving him a new deal before the start of free agency, so that means he will be eligible to sign with anybody.
Of the three, Marsh was the one that was on the field at the end of the season, and is also comfortably the most experienced. Possibly the best on special teams as well. Elliott is perhaps the one most likely to remain available whether they sign him or not. It will be interesting to see if, like Terence Garvin before him, Adeniyi can find a deal as a would-be restricted free agent that pays him more elsewhere.