The Pittsburgh Steelers offseason is now officially underway as of this past Sunday night and between now and the start of the 2022 league year in March the team will need to make several decisions regarding the players scheduled to become free agents. In this post, we’ll look at the three Steelers players currently scheduled to become exclusive rights free agents at the start of the new league year.
Exclusive rights free agent (ERFA): Any player with fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract. If his original team offers him a one-year contract at the league minimum (based on his credited seasons), the player cannot negotiate with other teams.
C/G – J.C. Hassenauer – Hassenauer made the Steelers 2021 roster out of training camp and he opened the regular season as a backup. In Week 10, he was forced into action at the left guard position after starter Kevin Dotson went down with an ankle injury. The next week, Hassenauer started at left guard but a pectoral injury forced him from the game, and ultimately to the Reserve/Injured list. He retuned from the Reserve/Injured list in week and finished that road game at he center position. He then started the final two regular season games and the team’s lone playoff game at center after rookie Kendrick Green was effectively benched. In total Hassenauer played 276 regular season snaps on offense and 51 more on special teams. He also played another 68 offensive snaps in the playoff loss to go along with three special teams snaps. Hassenauer easily showed enough in 2021 to warrant him being given a one-year exclusive rights tender for the minimum amount of $895,000. He should sign it fairly quickly as well and then go on to compete for a roster spot throughout the remainder of the offseason.
LS Christian Kuntz – Kuntz was the Steelers long snapper for the entire 2021 regular season after beating out incumbent Kameron Canaday for the job during training camp and the offseason. In total, Kuntz played 148 special team snaps in 2021 on is way to registering two total special teams tackles. Pro Football Focus has Kuntz down for a grade of 53.6 for the 2021 season and that includes the team’s Super Wild Card Week loss. The Steelers were nearly guaranteed to give Kuntz a one-year, $825,000 exclusive rights tender so that he can compete for a 2022 roster spot again. They did that and Kuntz reportedly signed his one-year exclusive rights tender on Wednesday. He will be the odds-on favorite to be the Steelers long snapper again in 2022. Assuming he is, and assuming he sticks on the roster again for an entire season, he will once again be scheduled to be an exclusive rights free agent a year from now.
DT DeMarcus Christmas – Christmas, who was originally signed to the Steelers practice squad in November of 2020, he was signed to a Reserve/Future contract after ending that 2020 season on the teams practice squad. The former Florida State defensive tackle wound up on the Steelers Reserve/Injured list in July after suffering an undisclosed injury. He spent the entire 2021 season on the Steelers Reserve/Injured list and thus never played a snap for the team. Even if Christmas is now fully recovered from his injury, it’s doubtful the Steelers will tender him a one-year contract for the minimum amount of $825,000. He has a bit of an injury history at the NFL level after originally being selected in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks so his NFL career might be over with now.
CB DeMarkus Acy – Like Christmas, Acy spent the entire 2021 season on the Steelers Reserve/Injured list. Acy landed on the list after tearing an ACL during an August training camp practice and that injury obviously needed to be surgically repaired. At this point, Acy likely still isn’t fully recovered from his surgery so it’s doubtful that the Steelers will offer him a one-year exclusive rights tender for $705,000. If they don’t tender him before the start of the new league year March, there’s always a chance that the team might could sign him back come time training camp gets underway. To date, Acy has only been a practice squad player.