Which Unsigned UFA Has The Best Chance Of Returning To Pittsburgh?

Joe Haden 2020 Ravens

The Pittsburgh Steelers went rather hog-wild in free agency this offseason compared to years past, having the cap space to retain several of their own free agents as well as acquire talent outside the organization. They managed to sign Myles Jack, James Daniels, Mason Cole, Levi Wallace, Damontae Kazee, Larry Ogunjobi, Miles Boykin, Gunner Olszewski and Mitch Trubisky who played last season for other teams. Pittsburgh also retained Chukwuma Okorafor, Terrell Edmunds, Ahkello Witherspoon, Montravius Adams, Robert Spillane, and a couple others to contribute to the teams’ efforts in 2022.

Still, there are a few UFAs still out on the street that Pittsburgh, or any other team in the league, has not yet signed here on July 11. CB Joe Haden, TE Eric Ebron, and RB Kalen Ballage are the names that are still slated to be open to playing in 2022, with both QB Ben Roethlisberger and IOL B.J. Finney opting to retire this offseason.


This raises the question: which of the three active Pittsburgh Steelers UFAs has the best shot of returning to the team in 2022?

Frankly, if we are being completely honest, none of the three names are probable to return as we sit here today. Pittsburgh hit CB hard in free agency, having three names in the room that all project to be starters in Witherspoon, Wallace, and Cam Sutton. They also have Tre Norwood, Arthur Maulet, and Kazee who all can play that nickel/dime role in the slot, with James Pierre and Justin Layne serving as special teams contributors and outside depth pieces. Since Haden wouldn’t be playing any special teams and doesn’t have an open starting spot as we sit here today, it may be tough to see him return on a cheap deal to be a likely backup.

Ebron had a tumultuous 2021 season, appearing in only eight games with three starts and totaling only 12 receptions for 84 yards and a TD, his worst statistical performance to date. Ebron’s drop in play came to the fact that rookie TE Pat Freiermuth started to get more run as the season went on, as well as the injury bug limiting his appearances. Ebron was placed on IR on November 22nd after suffering a knee injury that required surgery. He battled injuries prior to the one that ended his season, also missing time with a hamstring injury, and dealing with an unknown injury during training camp. While he is reportedly healthy post-surgery, it’s unlikely Pittsburgh brings back the 29-year-old with Freiermuth and Zach Gentry in-tow for 2022.

Ballage turned out to be a non-factor for the Pittsburgh offense last season, putting together his worst statistical season of his career much like Ebron in 2021. In total, Ballage played 65 total offense snaps along with 98 special teams snaps according to Pro Football Reference, and totaled a whopping 12 carries for 36 yards, two receptions of eight yards, and one special teams tackle.

For a guy that had the chance to capture the backup running back job behind Najee Harris, Ballage proved to not be reliable enough as a pass protector as well as a pass catcher to warrant much offensive usage. He figuratively could be brought back on the minimum to fight in camp for a backup job, but with Pittsburgh already having Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. there and wanting to see if Mataeo Durant or Jaylen Warren can show anything on limited reps, bringing back Ballage would be mute at this point.

Who do you think has the best shot of the names listed above to return to Pittsburgh? What is your reasoning? Do you see Pittsburgh bringing back any of the aforementioned names: whether it be this season or sometime in the future? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!

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