The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.
This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others.
Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor is heading into free agency, as is Trai Turner.
These are the sorts of topics among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Of the Steelers’ pending unrestricted free agents, which player should be the top priority to re-sign?
The following list of players will be unrestricted free agents for the Pittsburgh Steelers at the start of the new league year next month: Joe Haden; JuJu Smith-Schuster; Eric Ebron; Trai Turner; Chukwuma Okorafor; Terrell Edmunds; James Washington; Miles Killebrew; Joshua Dobbs; Ray-Ray McCloud; B.J. Finney; Montravius Adams; Arthur Maulet; Taco Charlton; Kalen Ballage; and Ahkello Witherspoon.
That’s 16 players, of varying degrees of importance, so it’s get more realistic. Haden, Smith-Schuster, Turner, Okorafor, and Edmunds were full-time, ‘every-down’ starters last year, and would expected to be once again if re-signed, most likely. Witherspoon could move from depth to starter if re-signed. Maulet played a key sub-package role and could be the starting nickel back if re-signed. The rest would be varying degrees of reserves, including Adams, slotting in behind Tyson Alualu.
I think most would agree that a starter would be the biggest priority to re-sign, if possible, so factoring in potential cost weighed against alternatives, including options in the draft, you have two offensive linemen (Okorafor and Turner), a wide receiver (Smith-Schuster), and three members of the secondary (Haden, Witherspoon, and Maulet) in the discussion.
My answer would focus on the secondary, most likely, and may even learn toward Witherspoon. Edmunds is a candidate, but there may be a realistic market in free agency to find somebody else. I also have to consider the lack of depth along the offensive line as well, however. If you don’t re-sign Okorafor, who is your starting right tackle? Zach Banner? Joe Haeg?