Player: Miles Killebrew
Experience: 6 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2021 Salary Cap Hit: $1,127,500
2021 Season Breakdown:
After losing a core special teams safety in Jordan Dangerfield following the 2020 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers front office looked to upgrade that spot, and they came away with Miles Killebrew, a hybrid safety/linebacker who worked exclusively at safety—when he worked at defense at all—in Pittsburgh.
Signed to a one-year, veteran-minimum qualifying contract, the sixth-year veteran certainly earned his keep, logging 335 snaps on special teams (as well as 44 snaps on defense). He finished the year with 13 tackles, the vast majority of which of course came on special teams.
But where he really made a difference is in the fact that he had not one but two blocked punts, including one in a surprise season-opening road victory over the Buffalo Bills, recovered and returned for a touchdown by Ulysees Gilbert III.
Special teams is an oft-forgotten aspect of the game until it becomes very relevant, and frankly, we saw just how important it could be during this postseason run. The Steelers still have a few weak spots concerning their non-specialist special teams starters, but with a core group of players like Killebrew and Derek Watt, they’re rebuilding a strong nucleus.
As indicated, the Steelers did even give him a small role on defense at times in heavy personnel. He saw his most action against his former team, the Detroit Lions, playing 11 snaps on defense. He was somewhat regularly playing 5-6 snaps a game in the final month of the year.
Free Agency Outlook:
It seems a no-brainer to me that the Steelers should readily re-sign safety Miles Killebrew, who is worth his price just for his special teams play. Provided that he can continue to be had for veteran-minimum salaries, which for a seventh-year player in 2022 would be $1.120 million plus a $137,500 thousand signing bonus, it’s an easy decision.
I can only remind skeptics of the 2009 season, during which the Steelers had such horrendous play on special teams that head coach Mike Tomlin had to list former special teams standouts who had long become starters, like James Harrison, Ike Taylor, and Brett Keisel, to play regular roles.
With that said, he doesn’t really move the needle in terms of safety depth, where you only have Tre Norwood, ignoring the fact that starter Terrell Edmunds is a free agent as well. This is a position they’re likely to try to address anyway.