No, Miles Killebrew and Arthur Maulet re-signing won’t lead the Pittsburgh Steelers’ to their seventh Lombardi Trophy. But they were practical, smart decisions by the team ahead of free agency. The type of depth and role players every team needs around the bottom of their roster.
Killebrew is an especially key signing. Inked to a one-year deal last year, it wasn’t even clear what position the team planned on playing him, linebacker or safety. But looking back, and we even acknowledged it at the time, his slot on the depth chart didn’t really matter. He was brought in to be a core special-teamer and he was every bit of that.
While he had *only* seven special teams tackles, four of them solo, he blocked both of the Steelers’ punts in 2021. The first came in Week 1’s win over Buffalo, a fourth quarter splash play that helped defeat the Bills in what was really Pittsburgh’s biggest upset of the season. Killebrew’s second block jumpstarted a comeback attempt versus the Chargers. Credit to scheme and teammates on both that allowed Killebrew to rush in free but ultimately, he still made the play. His 335 special teams snaps were second on the team only trailing Ulysees Gilbert III, who logged two more. Killebrew will return in a similar role next season as one of the team’s top coverage guys and an asset on the blocking/return unit.
Maulet’s re-signing is a little less significance. He doesn’t have the high-level special teams value Killebrew possesses but he served his role well last season. Maulet was the team’s discount version of Mike Hilton, a plucky, undersized corner who gets after it in the run game and chases the ball all over the field. And that’s what he did. Pittsburgh avoided him in as many passing situations as possible. 37.9% of his snaps last season were running plays, a high number for a slot corner on the field when the offense is (normally) putting three receivers on the field. And a whopping 85.3% of his snaps last year came on first and second down, coming off the field in favor of Tre Norwood in most passing situations.
All of that is to say is the Steelers brought back two players with limited but clearly defined and valuable roles. Veteran guys Pittsburgh got to know in 2021 and decided to bring back for 2022, each receiving two-year deals for at least the illusion of some security.
Neither guy will define Pittsburgh’s upcoming season. That’ll be done by the organizations’ decisions along the offensive line, the primary secondary positions, and of course, who ends up under center. But these the signings and Maulet and Killebrew shouldn’t be overlooked. They are pieces of the roster-building process, and they serve their purpose well.