With significant cap space and some big holes to fill on the roster, the Pittsburgh Steelers and General Manager Kevin Colbert have been extremely busy early in the league tampering period of the NFL.
Aside from signing veteran street free agents Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Cole, James Daniels, and Levi Wallace to affordable contracts, the Steelers have also signed a number of their own, including Arthur Maulet, Chukwuma Okorafor, J.C. Hassenauer, Marcus Allen, Montravius Adams, Miles Killebrew and Robert Spillane, ensuring some holes won’t be major ones once the 2022 NFL Draft rolls around.
Thanks to their activity and the shrewd signings they’ve made so far, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell — who is typically a major critic of the Steelers — tabbed Pittsburgh as one of his early free agency winners, right there with the likes of the Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, the Cleveland Browns, the Buffalo Bills, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and even Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
It pays (pun intended) to be smart with our money, and that’s what the Steelers have done, all while turning some heads across the league.
“The Steelers don’t often shop in free agency, but with a black hole at quarterback and one of the league’s worst offensive lines, Pittsburgh really had no choice but to take a swing or two on the open market. I’m not sure they’ve found superstars, but they haven’t paid over the odds to add players,” Barnwell writes. “The most significant addition the Steelers made was quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, whose two-year deal has a base value of $14.25 million. All the chatter about how Trubisky was being seen as a starting quarterback with significant upside after his year on the bench in Buffalo turned out to be agent bluster; in the end, Trubisky got what amounts to high-end backup money to compete for a starting job. That’s a fair price, which is often hard for a desperate team to get when there aren’t many QB options in free agency. And Trubisky’s deal shouldn’t stop the Steelers from drafting a signal-caller, but this locks in an upgrade on Mason Rudolph.
“Pittsburgh then went for another former Bears player by inking guard James Daniels to a three-year, $26.5 million deal. Daniels is one of the youngest unrestricted free agents on the market at 24 years old, and the former second-round pick is coming off his best season as a pro after moving to right guard,” Barnwell added. “I’m assuming Daniels stays at that spot in Pittsburgh, where he’ll link up with right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, who signed a three-year, $29.25 million deal to stay with the team. I’m not as enthralled with the deal for Okorafor, who ranked outside the top 50 in both pass block win rate and run block win rate last season. With center Mason Cole joining from the Vikings, the Steelers could have three new starters up front in 2022.”
The Steelers did do a nice job adding a veteran with a ton of experience and pedigree in Trubisky, especially on a friendly salary, which Barnwell points out, is high-end backup money. Trubisky will get a chance to “compete” for the starting job, but with that type of money spent on an outside free agent, he’s going to be the Week 1 starter.
Aside from adding at least a serviceable starting QB in Trubisky, the Steelers threw a bunch of resources at a real black hole in the offensive line, re-signing Chukwuma Okorafor, and going outside the organization to add Mason Cole and James Daniels to affordable deals. Though Barnwell is a bit low on Okorafor, he’s still just 24 years old and will have his third OL coach in five seasons. Hard to give up on a young, physically imposing talent like that in today’s game, especially with how valuable linemen are.
Overall it’s a really solid start to free agency for the Steelers, one that has them positioned nicely heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, though there is still cap space available and work remaining to be done in free agency.