The Pittsburgh Steelers currently have 17 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this offseason, and two of those players have managed to make The Athletic’s top 75 list.
On Monday, Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic ranked the top 75 soon-to-be unrestricted free agents of the 2022 offseason, and Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and safety Terrell Edmunds both made the list, albeit both are outside of the top 50.
Smith-Schuster is ranked 54th overall on Kapadia’s list of 75 players, and below is what he wrote about the Steelers’ former second-round draft pick out of USC, who missed most of the 2021 season due to a shoulder injury.
“He was a free agent last offseason and settled for a one-year, $8 million deal to return to Pittsburgh. Smith-Schuster suffered a shoulder injury and appeared in just five games, although he returned in the wild-card round. It seems unlikely that Smith-Schuster will find a richer deal than he was offered last offseason, given that he had just 15 catches for 129 yards. But he’s still just 25 years old and could interest teams in the market for a tough slot receiver.”
Honestly, it’s hard to argue with any of what Kapadia wrote about Smith-Schuster. The wide receiver recently stated that he expects to once again hit free agency this offseason and if indeed he does, he probably has around a 50/50 shot at re-signing with the Steelers at some point after the start of the new league year. It’s hard to imagine Smith-0ZSchuster having a market value of more than $10 million entering this offseason.
As I have already written in previous posts, who the Steelers quarterback is in 2022 will also likely play a part in Smith-Schuster’s offseason decision in addition to his perceived market value and what the Pittsburgh is willing to pay him. His offseason situation will once again be an interesting one to watch play out again. The steelers can afford to re-sign Smith-Schuster, but they’re not going to overpay what their perceived value of him is to do so.
As for Edmunds, Kapadia has him ranked near the bottom at 73rd overall. Below are his thoughts on the Steelers’ former first-round draft pick out of Virginia Tech, who did not have his fifth-year option picked up by the team last offseason.
“He hasn’t lived up to his draft slot (28th overall pick in 2018), but Edmunds is one of the youngest players on this list, having just turned 25 in January. And he’s been incredibly durable, having missed just one game in four seasons. Edmunds is mostly a box safety, but he logged over 250 snaps as both a slot corner and a free safety last season. A team could convince itself that Edmunds’ best football is still ahead of him.”
Kapadia is not off the mark here in his quick blurb. As I have previously written, it’s not hard to imagine the Steelers wanting to re-sign Edmunds ahead of the start of free agency, and especially if he really wants to return on a two-year contract with a new money average of less than $6 million. Might there be another team willing to pay Edmunds more than that? It’s certainly possible. If Edmunds does leave via free agency, the Steelers will have a strong safety hole to fill either via the draft or free agency.
Will one or both of Smith-Schuster and Edmunds be back with the Steelers on new contracts this offseason? Do both belong in Kapadia’s top 75 list? Should Steelers tackle Chukwuma Okafor have made Kapadia’s top 75 list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.