Player: Trai Turner
Experience: 8 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2021 Salary Cap Hit: $3,000,000
2021 Season Breakdown:
Former longtime Carolina Panthers guard, and five-time Pro Bowler, Trai Turner spent the bulk of the early portions of the 2021 offseason rehabbing from injuries sustained the previous season, which caused him to miss a good chunk of the year.
That’s part of the reason that he was available to be signed in late June, when the Pittsburgh Steelers added him to their roster on a one-year, $3 million deal, which came on the same day that the team released veteran guard David DeCastro due to injury.
Turner himself had dealt with injury issues for a number of years, missing at least three games every year for the majority of his career. Yet he managed to play every game in 2021 for the Steelers, even if he missed a chunk of snaps in a couple of them—and he got himself ejected from one.
In terms of his actual on-field performance, it was something of an improvement from his past couple of seasons, overall, but not at a Pro Bowl level, by any means. He flashed his Pro Bowl capabilities, and played with veteran vigor and experience, but consistently is primarily where he was lacking.
He did take on a veteran role, what with the offensive line consisting of three first-time starters, two being rookies, and another going into his second season as a starter, the first only being because of injury.
Free Agency Outlook:
Truth be told, I don’t have a great read on how interested the Steelers may be in bringing Turner back. He certainly isn’t the archetype for the offense that they ostensibly want to try to build, and while he’s not even 30, he is clearly past his prime—and almost surely looking for a boost in pay after taking a prove-it deal in a depleted market coming off of injury.
Still, it would be one more hole to fill. The team will obviously be looking to address the interior offensive line this offseason, both in free agency and in the draft, simply because they desperately need to. Every single starting position could be reasonably upgraded this offseason if they dedicate the resources to it.
Turner was signed because they had an emergency situation on their hands with the sudden loss of DeCastro, which came upon them during minicamp. This time they have a whole offseason to prepare for contingencies.
As it stands, the interior offensive line group consists of Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer (who is an exclusive rights free agent, and thus easily retained), Joe Haeg, and John Leglue. It’s fair to say they can do better than that.