A big offseason appears to lay ahead for the Pittsburgh Steelers, General Manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin, one that could shape the future of the Steelers for years to come, if done correctly.
With the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the impending foray into free agency for 16 players in total, and a search for a new GM with Colbert set to retire after the NFL Draft, there’s a lot going on for the Steelers.
On the field though, the Steelers have three key areas to address in free agency, according to NFL.com’s Kevin Patra. None of the three should be surprising overall, as Patra lists quarterback, cornerback and offensive line as key needs for the black and gold.
Obviously, the Steelers are in search of a new franchise quarterback following the retirement of Roethlisberger, along with Mason Rudolph currently being the lone quarterback under contract on the roster. As for cornerback, Joe Haden, Ahkello Witherspoon, and Arthur Maulet are all slated to hit free agency at the start of the new league year next week, leaving Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne and James Pierre as the only cornerbacks on the roster. Along the offensive line, Trai Turner and Chukwuma Okorafor are set to hit free agency and neither are likely to be back, leaving a hole on the right side of a poor offensive line.
Lots of work to do, Pittsburgh.
“For the first time since 2004, the Steelers have questions at quarterback. With Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson off the board, where will Mike Tomlin and Co. turn? Chasing Jameis Winston in free agency and pairing him with a highly drafted rookie makes a lot of sense,” Patra writes. “Marcus Mariota could be good if Tomlin wants a QB with more mobility. And a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo is an option at the right price. Mason Rudolph is nothing more than a stopgap, so if the Steelers don’t bring in a veteran in free agency, it will be a huge tell that they plan to draft a QB early.
“Regardless of who is under center, the Steelers need to upgrade an O-line that struggled mightily last season. Pittsburgh has excess money for the first time in years, and I’d expect Kevin Colbert to spend his final offseason as general manager using that cash on less flashy positions in need of a rugged upgrade.”
Rodgers and Wilson were never realistic names for the Steelers, so glad that’s over with. As for Winston, Mariota and Garoppolo, all three can be had this offseason, with Garoppolo needing to be traded for. All three would provide solid play as bridge options until the Steelers find their next guy, though someone like Garoppolo would need to be extended right away if the Steelers were to part with valuable draft capital.
As Patra points out though, it won’t matter if its Winston, Mariota, Garoppolo, Rudolph or any rookie quarterback under center in 2022 if the offensive line, which graded out as one of the worst in football according to Pro Football Focus, doesn’t get fixed.
Turner and Okorafor weren’t world beaters by any stretch, but they at least provide some stability along the right side of the line, starting a combined 33 of 34 possible games in 2021. Now, the Steelers could be undergoing even more change on the right side this offseason as neither are expected to return to the Steelers.
While it’s hard to pinpoint names that make sense for the Steelers overall along the offensive line, one name that makes the most sense is Chicago Bears’ interior offensive lineman James Daniels, a guy that Alex Kozora pinpointed as one of his top offensive targets. Other targets include Indianapolis Colts’ guard Mark Glowinski, San Francisco 49ers’ guard Laken Tomlinson, and Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive tackle Andrew Wylie.