It’s that time of year again. Free agency is creeping up in just a couple of weeks, so before we get there, we’ll get going over the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, position by position, making an assessment of what kind of shape they’re in, trying to figure out how they might, or should, attack the roster on that basis.
The Steelers are likely to be subject to more change than they are used to this year, with more than a dozen players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, including numerous starters. Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement looms large over all discussions for the foreseeable future.
Total Positional Figure: 5
Minkah Fitzpatrick: A multiple-time first-team All-Pro selection, Minkah Fitzpatrick is coming off of what can only fairly be described as an underrated season, considering he didn’t even get to the Pro Bowl. A season complicated by early-season re-jiggering of his role, Fitzpatrick settled in over the course of the year, and his solid tackling was key in preventing the run defense from being that much worse.
Terrell Edmunds: A free agent after four seasons, Edmunds’ future is uncertain in Pittsburgh. The Steelers reportedly have interest in re-signing him, but it sounds like it will only come at an affordable price before they turn their attention to other free agent alternatives.
Tre Norwood: A seventh-round rookie a year ago, Norwood played quite a bit, and largely in positive fashion. He technically started three games, including one against the Chargers at free safety when Fitzpatrick was out due to COVID-19. Los Angeles put up 41 points in that one…but right now, he’s the frontrunner for the primary nickel defender in 2022.
Miles Killebrew: A special-teamer first and foremost, Killebrew just re-signed with the Steelers on a two-year, $4 million contract. The highlight of his season was a pair of blocked punts, including one in the season opener that helped them upset the favored Bills.
Donovan Stiner: A rookie undrafted free agent, Stiner had a quiet season on the transaction sheet. He was a part of the Steelers’ original practice squad and remained there all season, signed to a Reserve/Future contract at year’s end.
There are two other players worth mentioning in here somewhere, those being Cameron Sutton and Arthur Maulet. Both are cornerbacks first, but have the position flexibility to play at safety. This is somewhat different from Tre Norwood, who has less of a fixed position and can seamlessly drift between safety and slot.
The biggest item on the agenda is the one that can wait, and that’s getting a new contract done with Fitzpatrick as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. The fact that he is coming off of a slight down season rather than continuing his upward trajectory doesn’t hurt the team’s ability to negotiate. But he’ll still be pushing for year-two guarantees at a minimum after T.J. Watt broke that stalemate.
The other major question, which is much more immediate, is what to do at strong safety. Do you keep Terrell Edmunds, whom Fitzpatrick enjoys playing with? At what price are you willing to retain him versus other alternatives on the market? The Steelers are reportedly in favor of Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead as a Plan B, but some would argue it should be Plan A.