The Pittsburgh Steelers now have now seemingly set their initial 53-man roster for Week 1 of 2022 season and so now is as good of a time as any to look at the players currently included in that group who are set to become free agents of some sort in 2023.
Unrestricted Free Agents:
DT/DE Larry Ogunjobi – The Steelers signed Ogunjobi well after OTAs wrapped up and while he was still putting the finishing touches on his reported Lisfranc surgery rehab. The veteran defensive tackle is now primed to pick up where he left off at last season. Ogunjobi will earn $8 million in 2022 and if he stays healthy and indeed plays like most think he will, he will set himself up for an even better and longer deal as an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
CB Cameron Sutton – Several have speculated throughout the summer that the Steelers might try to sign Sutton to an extension prior to Week 1 of the 2022 regular season but so far, such an event has yet to materialize. Sutton once again will see heavy playing time in 2022 and he should get a chance to show more of his position flexibility to boot. Sutton having his best season to date in 2022 could result in his market value increasing quite a bit. If that happens, the Steelers might have to consider placing the franchise tag on Sutton to prevent him from testing free agency after his contract voids. As it stands right now, Sutton probably has a 50/50 chance at re-signing with the Steelers next offseason.
DT Tyson Alualu – After missing most of the 2021 season with an ankle injury, Alualu is back healthy again and ready to start the 2022 season. The Steelers really need the 2020 version of Alualu back in 2022 and even if it is at a slightly reduced role. Alualu is now 35 years of age, however, and that makes him the third oldest defensive player in the NFL currently under contract at the time of this post. Because of that, it’s reasonable to expect that 2022 might just be Alualu’s final NFL season.
S Terrell Edmunds – As an unrestricted free agent this past offseason, Edmunds hardly received any attention on the market and that ultimately led to him re-signing with the Steelers on the cheap. The Steelers former first round draft pick will now have another shot at increasing his market value in 2022. Edmunds’ future past 2022 is murky and for obvious reasons. It could go either way for him next offseason so a return to the Steelers in 2023 is not totally out of the question even though it seems unlikely right now.
ILB Devin Bush – The Steelers chose not to pick up the fifth-year option on Bush’s rookie contract earlier in the offseason and so now the former first round draft pick out of Michigan has a lot to prove in 2022. With Bush now set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2023, it seems the only way he’ll return in 2023 is via the path that Edmunds took, meaning a low salary and for one year. If he plays like top draft pick, however, he might fly the coup for a long-term deal with another team.
S Damontae Kazee – The Steelers seem like they got themselves a solid find in Kazee as the veteran safety really played well during the preseason after signing a one-year deal with the team. Kazee, however, suffered a serious left arm injury in the preseason finale and now seems destined to open the regular season on the Reserve/Injured list. Kazee will hopefully return sooner rather than later. A solid season from him in 2022 should get the attention of the entire NFL and thus make him more marketable next spring.
DE Chris Wormley – 2022 will be Wormley’s third season in Pittsburgh. He will turn 29 in October and barring injuries, figures to be a rotational piece in the defensive front in 2022. It’s not out of the question for Wormley to re-sign with the Steelers in 2023 but if he does, it surely wouldn’t be for huge money. It would likely be a deal similar to the last one he signed in 2021. A solid 2022 season could make him an attractive free agent option for other teams come next spring.
FB Derek Watt – The Steelers have primarily used Watt as a special teams ace since he arrived in 2020. It will now be interesting to see if he gets to play more snaps at fullback in 2022. Even if he does, and regardless of how Watt plays in 2022, this might be his final year in Pittsburgh. Watt turns 30 in November so that’s something else to keep in mind when it comes to his future past 2022.
ILB Robert Spillane – The Steelers really like Spillane’s hard-nosed and no-nonsense approach. He’s a team-first player and willing to do anything to stay on the roster. In 2022, the hope is that Spillane will have to sit quite a bit behind a drastically improved Bush, but the odds of that happening aren’t great. Spillane is sure to see defensive playing time again in 2022 in addition to playing his usual role on special teams. All that said, 2022 might just wind up being Spillane’s final season in Pittsburgh.
TE Zach Gentry – Since being drafted by the Steelers in 2019, Gentry has slowly progressed into a second tight end role and one that should be heavily utilized as a blocker in 2022. He can play some on special teams and that’s also a plus and a necessity. Gentry’s 2022 season needs to be his best to date and if it is, he could wind up being one of just a handful of 2023 unrestricted free agents that the Steelers re-sign during the offseason.
T/G Jesse Davis – The Steelers just recently acquired Davis via a trade, and it will now be interesting to see what his role will be in 2022. While Davis is position versatile, he seems to be a better guard than he is a tackle. Should Davis be required to play a high number of snaps in 2022, it will likely be because injuries or poor play have happened ahead of him on the depth chart. While Davis just landed in Pittsburgh, it’s already hard to envision him being back with the Steelers in 2023 unless it is on a minimum one-year deal with no guarantees he makes next season’s 53-man roster.
OLB Malik Reed – Like Davis, the Steelers just recently acquired Reed via a trade and now he seems poised to be the team’s No. 3 outside linebacker on the depth chart for the 2022 season. How Reed plays in 2022 will obviously determine his future past 2022 as 2023 is set to be his first opportunity to test unrestricted free agency. A solid 2022 season could get the Steelers seriously thinking about re-signing Reed to a reasonable one or two-year deal next offseason.
RB Benny Snell Jr. – The Steelers once again chose to keep Snell around and that move really wasn’t all that surprising. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is a huge fan of Snell’s, who has proven himself to be a special teams asset throughout his NFL career. Snell now has rookie running back Jaylen Warren pushing him on the depth chart, however. In short, as much as Tomlin might love Snell, 2022 could very well wind up being his last season in Pittsburgh.
WR Miles Boykin – The Steelers claimed Boykin off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens earlier in the offseason. Boykin now seems poised to be one of the Steelers’ gunners on special teams in 2022 in addition to playing a backup wide receiver role. How Boykin plays in 2022 will go a long way in determining his future in 2023. Like Gentry, Boykin could very well wind up being one of the few unrestricted free agents re-signed by the Steelers next spring.
QB Mason Rudolph – For now, Rudolph looks poised to open the 2022 regular season as either the No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart. The Steelers have entertained trade offers for Rudolph this offseason so it will be interesting to see if he remains in Pittsburgh past the November 1 trade deadline. If Rudolph does finish the 2022 season with the Steelers, it seems all but certain that he will sign elsewhere in 2023 as an unrestricted free agent.
T Trent Scott – He’s back! Scott, a longtime disciple of Steelers offensive line coach Pat Meyer, just recently completed a quick roster turnaround maneuver after not being on the initial 53-man unit. That move was expected, however. Scott looks to be the Steelers top swing tackle to start the 2022 season and that’s a bit concerning overall. Here’s to hoping that Scott doesn’t need to play much in 2022. As for 2023, with Scott being forever linked to Meyer, it’s tough to speculate if the team will want to re-sign the veteran for even the NFL minimum. I’m betting they won’t. At least they shouldn’t.
ILB Marcus Allen – Like Scott, Allen was part of a multi-player roster manipulation so that the Steelers could get two players to the Reserve/Injured list ahead of their Week 1 game. After missing most of training camp and all of the preseason with a hamstring injury, Allen is likely to once again be a core special teams player for the Steelers in 2022 and that includes him being the upback on the punt unit. As for after the 2022 season, Allen doesn’t figure to receive much attention as an unrestricted free agent so there’s a good chance he might get re-signed for the minimum next summer to compete for a roster spot once again.
WR Anthony Miller – Early during training camp it looked like the veteran Miller might make a hard charge at 2022 spot on the 53-man roster. However, a shoulder injury derailed that run for Miller and he wound up on the team’s Reserve/Injured list well prior to cutdown day. In short, Miller won’t be playing any football in 2022 unless the Steelers release him from the Reserve/Injured list once he is fully healed. Even if Miller were to stay on the list all season, his hope of re-signing with the Steelers in 2023 is now greatly diminished.
S Karl Joseph – Like Miller, Joseph looked like he was making a legitimate run at a 2022 roster spot only to have that derailed by a foot injury early in the preseason. He’s also now on the Reserve/Injured list and because of that, we may have seen the last of Joseph in a Steelers uniform. If Miller and Joseph are ultimately re-signed next offseason, it would be for minimum deals with no guarantee that either make the 2023 roster.
Restricted Free Agents:
WR Steven Sims – For now, Sims is on the 53-man roster. Will he stay there all season, and will he dress for several games? That’s yet to be seen. He’ll need a lot of playing time in 2022 to warrant receiving a restricted tender offer in 2023 from the Steelers. His biggest goal right now should be keeping himself on the 53-man roster for the entire 2022 season and that might take a few injuries at the wide receiver position for that to happen.
C/G J.C. Hassenauer – The Steelers have Hassenauer on their 53-man roster for 2022 to serve as the team’s backup center and emergency swing guard. While Hassenauer has already beaten a lot of odds to this point, the hope is that doesn’t need to play too terribly much in 2022. If he does have to play, it’s likely going to be due to injuries. Will Hassenauer ultimately be able to do enough in 2022 to show that he’s worth of receiving a low-level restricted tender next offseason? That’s too hard to really predict right now. My guess is that he won’t, but stranger things have happened before.
CB James Pierre – The Steelers have Pierre on their initial 53-man roster to start the 2022 regular season and now it will be interesting to see if the former undrafted free agent can stay on it all year. Pierre essentially got himself benched last season because of poor play on defense but his work on special teams allowed him to continue dressing for games. This season, Pierre figures to dress weekly as a backup cornerback and special teams contributor. If he gets any work on the defensive side of the football in 2022 it will likely be due to injuries. Can he do enough to warrant him receiving a low-level restricted tender next spring? Time will tell.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents:
LS Christian Kuntz – Not surprisingly, Kuntz will be the Steelers’ long snapper again in 2022 after winning the job in 2021. Assuming he performs well in 2022, Kuntz will easily be retained with a one-year exclusive rights tender for the NFL minimum for his credited seasons. It’s hard to imagine that not happening as we sit here just ahead of the 2022 regular season getting underway.
OLB Jamir Jones – The Steelers have Jones back on the roster after claiming him off waivers on Thursday. The big question now is whether or not he will last all season on the 53-man roster as the team’s fourth outside linebacker. If he does, there’s a good bet that the Steelers will issue him an exclusive rights tender for the minimum return to compete for a job in 2023.
RB Jeremy McNichols – We didn’t get to learn too much about McNichols this summer because as quick as he was signed, he got injured and landed on the Reserve/Injured list. Should McNichols stay on the list all season, he will be eligible to receive an exclusive rights tender for the minimum. That, however, doesn’t usually happen for young players who land on the Reserve/Injured list so early during an offseason.