Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: S Miles Killebrew
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Signed as an unrestricted free agent last offseason to become a core member of the Steelers’ special teams units, Killebrew did exactly that, and delivered splash plays in the process.
Miles Killebrew signed a one-year, $1.275 million contract in 2021 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, including a $137,500 signing bonus. This is the largest contract a veteran free agent of his accrued experience could sign while qualifying for the veteran salary benefit, which comes with a reduced cap hit of $987,500. $990,000 was his base salary, the minimum in 2021 for his number of accrued seasons, and the aforementioned signing bonus is the largest permitted to be offered to qualify for the reduction.
With a cap hit under $1 million, Killebrew certainly offered bang for the buck, which included two blocked punts on special teams, a feat that I imagine is fairly rare around the league. The first came in the season opener, and was recovered by Ulysees Gilbert III for a touchdown, a key score that helped them upset a highly-favored home Buffalo Bills team.
The safety finished his first season in Pittsburgh having logged 335 snaps on special teams, which is remarkably a four-year low for him, given how much he played in those phases for the Detroit Lions during his first five seasons in the NFL.
He played just 44 snaps on defense, but he started to have a more meaningful role late in the year, used in certain rare packages specific to run personnel. In all, he recorded 13 tackles, most of which came on special teams.
The Steelers had three players record 10 or more tackles on special teams during the 2021 season. Killebrew was not actually one of them—they were Derek Watt, Gilbert, and Justin Layne—but he was a core member of those units and positive contributor. To the point where I would be surprised if he is not re-signed on another one-year deal.