Steelers 2023 Free Agency Primer: Unrestricted Free Agents – Offense

The Pittsburgh Steelers offseason is now officially underway as of this past Sunday afternoon and between now and the start of the 2023 league year in March the team will need to make several decisions regarding the players scheduled to become free agents. In this post, we’ll look at the eight Steelers’ offensive players currently scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year.

Unrestricted free agent (UFA): Any player with four or more accrued seasons and an expired contract; free to negotiate and sign with any team.

TE Zach Gentry – As far as Steelers’ offensive players who will be unrestricted free agents this offseason, Gentry might really be the most notable one of the group. The former fifth-round draft pick out of Michigan logged a career-high 577 offensive snaps in 2022 in addition to 72 more on special teams. He caught 19 passes for 132 yards and no touchdowns in 2022. He had one drop in 23 total targets. Gentry’s run blocking in 2022 wasn’t great and that’s a bit concerning when it comes to him. If it can be termed as being average, that might be on the generous side. Even so, Gentry might be a player the Steelers want to bring back during the offseason and possibly even before he hits free agency in March. A modest two-year deal should get Gentry’s attention this offseason, but how modest? After all, the tight end free agent market isn’t shaping up to be that attractive this offseason so Gentry might look like the best-looking ugly girl at the high school dance. Things usually work out for such girls, by the way. Obviously, Gentry probably would like to re-sign with the Steelers this offseason. If he does, I will be on the edge of my seat waiting to see the contract details.

FB Derek Watt – The Steelers used Watt a little bit more on offense in 2022 than they did in his first two seasons with the Steelers. In fact, in his 77 total offensive snaps played in 2022, Watt had 14 total touches, a career-high for him for a single season. He had nine rushes for 21 yards and a touchdown in addition to five receptions for 11 yards and another touchdown. Watt also played 290 special teams snaps in 2022 but only managed four total tackles as a core player. Watt earned $2.75 million in 2022 and that’s probably the top of his market value when it comes to 2023. Will he want to play one more year? After all, he’s now 30 years of age and older brother J.J. Watt is retiring now as well. We’ll see, but if Watt does want to play one more season, it’s hard to imagine the Steelers paying him more than they did in 2022. In fact, they might not want to pay him much more than the minimum for his credited seasons, which for him will be $1.165 million.

QB Mason Rudolph – If there’s one player on this list that is likely counting down the days until March 15, it’s probably Rudolph, who only dressed for one game in 2022. If not for rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett missing a game later in the season due to a concussion, Rudolph would have been inactive every game in 2022. He obviously never played a snap in 2022 and he’ll now be looking forward to testing unrestricted free agency to find any other team willing to have him. For his troubles, Rudolph made $3 million in 2022. Can he get that same kind of money or more from another team during the offseason? It’s possible. In short, don’t look for Rudolph to be re-signed during the offseason. He probably can’t wait to get out of Pittsburgh.

WR Miles Boykin – I love me some Boykin and I bet Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin does as well. I like Boykin because he is a dependable special teams player for starters. He’s also not a bad blocker when playing on offense, which wasn’t the case very often in 2022. In total, Boykin played 132 offensive snaps in 2022 and 207 more on special teams. On offense, Boykin caught just two passes for 11 yards on three total targets in 2022. As a run blocker in 2022, he was very much above average. As for his contributions on special teams, Boykin had 10 total tackles in that phase of the game in 2022. Nine of those teams were of the primary variety, and he led the team in that category. He even missed one game in 2022 with an oblique injury.

RB Benny Snell Jr. – Have we seen the end of “Benny Snell Football” in Pittsburgh? It’s quite possible. Snell, who played in all 17 games in 2022, is now set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, In 2022, Snell was essentially the Steelers third-string running back and that led to him playing just 42 offensive snaps on his way to registering 20 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown in addition to two catches for another 17 yards. The real reason that Snell was on the 2022 roster again was due to his special teams ability. He logged 284 special teams snaps in 2022 on his way to registering eight total tackles. Tomlin is a big fan of Snell so there is that. Even so, Snell might want to test free agency to see if there is a team willing to pay him more than the minimum, which is probably what the Steelers will have their former draft pick out of Kentucky valued at. So, it’s not out of the question that Snell might be re-signed this offseason. If he is, however, it will likely be a one-year deal with little to no guaranteed money included.

T Trent Scott – Scott managed to dress for all 17 games this past season after signing a one-year deal with the team last May. In total, Scott played just 31 offensive snaps in 2022 and most of those came with him being a tackle-eligible as part of six offensive linemen being on the field. He also had one special teams snap in 2022 if you are scoring at home. For what Scott was asked to do in the 31 offensive snaps that he played in 2022, he did fine. Even so, he’s probably not a player that any team wants logging a lot of snaps at either tackle spot. Scott is a disciple of sorts of offensive line coach Pat Meyer so there’s the connection. If the Steelers do ultimately re-sign Scott during the offseason it would have to be a veteran benefit contract for the minimum and like last year, one with no guaranteed money included. The Steelers need better depth on their offensive line in 2023 so even if Scott is re-signed this offseason, chances are good that he would not be on the Week 1 53-man roster after the smoke clears.

G Jesse Davis – The good news when it comes to Davis, who will have his 2023 contract year void not long after the Super Bowl is played, is that he did not have to play any offensive snaps in 2022 despite being active for all 17 games. His body must feel really great right now as he logged just 58 total special teams snaps in 2022. He earned $1.45 million in 2022 doing just that. After his contract voids, Davis will become an unrestricted free agent in March. Will there be much of a market for him after not playing any offensive snaps in 2022? Probably not. Might the Steelers be able to get Davis re-signed to a one-year veteran benefit contract during the offseason? We’ll see. One would think that he might want to see what else is out there in free agency, however. In short, it’s probably a 50-50 proposition that Davis will be re-signed during the offseason. If he does re-sign, it won’t be for a lot.

WR Anthony Miller – A shoulder injury sustained during the Steelers’ first preseason game in 2022 resulted in Miller being lost for the season. He spent all of 2022 on the Steelers Reserve/Injured list and is now set to become an unrestricted free agent in March. The Steelers might be willing to re-sign Miller but if that’s the case, you can bet it would only be for the minimum as part of a veteran benefit contract. Miller is still only 28 years of age, so there might be another year left in him as a backup. Like most bottom-of-the-barrel unrestricted free agents that the Steelers have annually, it could go either way with Miller in the coming weeks. It won’t move the needle much either way regardless of what happens with him.

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