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: Will any of the Steelers’ many free agents end up in other cities in the AFC North?
The Steelers obviously have a tighter salary cap situation than most teams, and as a result, they are expected to lose out on a few key, high-profile free agents, at least one or two of which they might have otherwise been able to keep around under different circumstances.
That doesn’t mean they’ll stray far, however. While it’s not incredibly common, sometimes free agents do stay within the division, and there are some options that could make sense. Alejandro Villanueva would not be one of them, however, as the Baltimore Ravens have Ronnie Stanley, the Cleveland Browns have Jedrick Wills, and the Cincinnati Bengals have Jonah Williams.
Bud Dupree is a distinct possibility, at least for the Browns and Ravens. Baltimore failed to place the franchise tag on either Matt Judon or Yannick Ngakoue. It’s possible that they lose both. The Browns just dumped Adrian Clayborn, and Olivier Vernon shouldn’t consider his job safe.
Baltimore could also be a reasonable destination for JuJu Smith-Schuster if they’re looking for a reliable target who also embraces the physicality of the game. The Bengals and Browns are less likely options, but they do have cap room.