Steelers 2022 Free Agency Primer: Restricted Free Agents

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 restricted free agents at the start of the new league year.

Restricted free agent (RFA): A player with three accrued seasons and an expired contract. RFAs are free to negotiate and sign with any team, but their original team can offer them one of various qualifying offers (“tenders”) that come with the right of first refusal and/or draft-pick compensation. If the tender is withdrawn by a team, the RFA becomes an unrestricted free agent.

ILB Robert Spillane – Spillane once again made the Steelers roster this year as a backup behind starting inside linebackers Devin Bush and Joe Schobert and that meant the plan for him was to mostly contribute in a limited role and on special teams. Spillane, however, went on to play 346 total defensive snaps in the regular season in addition to 244 more on special teams. He registered 45 total tackles on defense in 2021 and 11 more on special teams. Two of those tackles resulted in losses. Spillane played in the Super Wild Card Game as well and registered five total tackles in that road loss. In total and including the one playoff game, Spillane was targeted 26 times and allowed 20 receptions for 203 yards and a touchdown. Spillane missed three games in 2021 with two of them being two to a knee injury. Additionally, he officially started four games in total during the season. The Steelers are almost guaranteed to give Spillane a one-year, $2.433 million right of first refusal restricted free agent tender in the coming weeks and months so that he can compete for a 2022 roster spot. While Spillane is a solid special teams player, the hope is that he won’t be needed to start many more games for the Steelers at inside linebacker moving forward if he makes the 53-man roster. The Steelers might decide to address the inside linebacker position at some point during the 2022 NFL Draft as well.

ILB Marcus Allen – Allen, who was originally selected by the Steelers in fifth-round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Penn State, made the team’s 53-man roster this season. Allen was active for all but one game during the 2021 season as he missed one due to him being on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. He even started two contests later in the season on his way to logging 62 total defensive snaps and another 301 special teams snaps. For the regular season, Allen registered seven toral tackles on defense and six more on special teams. he also had one special team tackle in the super Wild Card Game loss. A lot of Allen’s defensive snaps came with him being part of the Steelers dime package and playing down low in the box. He was targeted eight times in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus, and allowed four receptions for 52 yards. Allen’s experience on special teams is enough reason to bring him back on a one-year, $2.433 million right of first refusal restricted free agent tender in the coming weeks and months with no guarantees he makes the 2022 roster. While he did make the move to inside linebacker in 2020, Allen will never be more than a depth player at that position. For him to make the 2022 final roster again, Allen will need to make himself uncuttable as a special teams player should the Steelers wind up restricted tendering him for the minimum.

QB Dwayne Haskins – As expected, Haskins, who signed one-year, $850,000 contract with the Steelers last January, didn’t take a single snap for the team during the 2021 season after failing to win the backup quarterback job during training camp and the preseason. In fact, Haskins, the former first round draft pick of the Washington Football Team out of Ohio State, was only active for one game in 2021 and that was the one that starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed due to him being on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Even though Haskins failed to see action in 2021, the Steelers will still likely issue him an original round restricted tender in the amount of $2.54 million. Such a tender would require an opposing team to give the Steelers first round draft pick should they sign Haskins away via an offer sheet that goes unmatched. Assuming he is restricted tendered, Haskins would then get another opportunity to compete for a roster spot throughout the season. Depending on who else is brought into the Steelers quarterback room during the offseason, Haskins might get a legitimate chance to be the Steelers 2022 Week 1 starter. Barring Haskins doing anything silly off the field in the next several weeks, expect him to get restricted tendered at an original round level.

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