Will the Pittsburgh Steelers add another free agent or two between now and the start of the 2021 regular season? Using history of the team as a guide, odds are they will add at least another few free agents with experience as the offseason progresses with them also making the final 53-man roster to boot. Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com believes the Steelers will add a veteran tackle at some point this offseason and he predicts that player will be Russell Okung, just like Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus recently speculated.
Here is why Barnwell believes the Steelers might ultimately land Okung later this offseason.
One more first-rounder to complete the set. I’m stunned that Okung hasn’t yet signed a contract, given that he’s the last useful left tackle standing on the open market in a league where a handful of competitive teams still need to lock down their quarterback’s blindside. Okung missed time with a pulmonary embolism in 2019 and a calf injury last season, but he was a solid left tackle when on the field.
The Steelers have been pinching pennies just to get under the salary cap, but if there’s any position where they need to spend money, it’s at left tackle. Pittsburgh let Alejandro Villanueva move on this past season, leaving Chukwuma Okorafor as the favorite to start on the line’s most important position. Okorafor started last year at right tackle after Zach Banner went down injured, but Ben Roethlisberger would be staring down one of the least imposing sets of starting tackles in the league on paper without an addition. It might take voidable years or a Dogecoin option to get the deal done, but Okung would be a major upgrade for a team that has one more shot with Roethlisberger.
Okung, who will turn 33 years old in October, played for the Carolina Panthers in 2020. He only made seven starts in 2020 at left tackle due to a calf injury. He played last season for $13 million, of which half of that was paid to him in Bitcoin.
Honestly, Okung would be a huge risk for any team in 2021 based on his injury history so that ought to keep his price down in the coming weeks and months. Even so, the Steelers would really need to get creative with a contract that likely would include voidable years if they were to sign Okung for more than his $1.075 million minimum amount.
The Steelers signed free agent tackle Joe Haeg earlier in the offseason to backup presumed starters Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner. Additionally, the Steelers selected Texas A&M tackle Dan Moore Jr. with their first of two fourth round draft picks this year. In short, it would be a bit of a surprise to see the Steelers sign a free agent tackle for much more than the minimum at this point.