This offseason is shaping up to be a busy one for the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least in free agency.
With more than 20 players set to hit the market as unrestricted or restricted free agents, there are plenty of holes opening up on the roster ahead of the 2023 season.
Good news for the Steelers is that they can open up cap space with some restructures and cap-savings roster moves, allowing them to be active in free agency, should they choose to.
If they do, the Steelers are predicted landing spots for two free agents inside the top 50 of Pro Football Focus’ free agent rankings, at least according to PFF’s Arjun Menon and Brad Spielberger.
In an article predicting the landing spot for the top 50 free agents, Menon and Spielberger paired the Steelers with two, but it came at a price: losing cornerback Cameron Sutton.
The Minnesota Vikings are the predicted landing spot for Sutton — who ranks 23rd in the top 50 — in the article, which would be a significant blow to the Steelers’ defense.
“The Vikings really need to improve their secondary this offseason, and given that Brian Flores is their new defensive coordinator, they could target players familiar with his scheme, such as Sutton,” Menon and Spielberger write regarding Sutton’s prediction to land in Minnesota. “While Flores didn’t work directly with Sutton in his lone year on the Steelers coaching staff, the overlap should help Sutton acclimate. Additionally, Sutton offers inside-outside flexibility, as he played most of his snaps at slot corner prior to 2021 and has now spent the last two years as the Steelers’ top cover corner on the outside.”
That’s some solid dot connecting there from Menon and Spielberger, but based on Sutton’s comments so far this offseason and the way he’s conducted himself in interviews, it doesn’t sound like he has any interest in leaving the only organization he’s known in the NFL, especially with the way he’s developed into a leader and key asset defensively in the secondary.
Should the Steelers lose Sutton in free agency though, there’s a ready-made replacement on the market, that being former Indianapolis Colts and Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (No. 41 in the top 50), whom Menon and Spielberger predict lands with the Steelers.
“With Cameron Sutton hypothetically departing in this article, we have a new top cornerback headed to Pittsburgh in the younger Rock Ya-Sin,” Menon and Spielberger write. “The former second-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts earned a 74.4 coverage grade lined up out wide over the past two seasons, which ranks 24th, and he allowed an explosive reception on just 0.9% of coverage snaps, which was the top mark across the entire NFL.”
Ya-Sin continues to be a popular name that is generating more buzz nationally as a fit for the Steelers less than a week after Steelers Depot’s own Jonathan Heitritter connected some pre-draft dots from 2019, highlighting Ya-Sin as a fit.
He’d bring physicality to the position and would be a sound signing for the Steelers, were they to lose Sutton. Heck, he’d be a good signing even if the Steelers lock up Sutton, too.
Outside of Ya-Sin as a predicted signing, PFF paired the Steelers with former Philadelphia Eagles’ linebacker T.J. Edwards (No. 28) in the top 50 as well.
“The Steelers signed cap casualty linebacker Myles Jack to a two-year, $16 million deal last offseason, and it’s at least a possibility he finds himself in the same situation this offseason since he’s owed an $8 million salary in 2023. Even if he sticks around, Devin Bush and Robert Spillane are pending free agents, and Edwards could be a multi-year solution beyond 2023,” Menon and Spielberger write. “While Pittsburgh does not traditionally spend much in free agency, they have departed a bit from that stance in recent offseasons, notably signing guard James Daniels, among others, last offseason. The price would have to be right here with Edwards coming off a very strong 2022 campaign, during which he posted career highs with 54 defensive stops, 11 quarterback pressures and eight pass breakups.”
Edwards was very good in 2022 for the NFC champion Eagles, earning a PFF grade of 84.8 overall, which included an 83.4 run defense and a 79.7 in coverage. Based on his history with Steelers’ new assistant GM Andy Weidl, as well as the clear need for the Steelers to figure out the inside linebacker position, there’s certainly some dot-connecting that is coming into play with the pairing of Edwards and the Steelers.
We’ll see just how active the Steelers will be in free agency once the new league year starts in mid-March, but it’s hard to find issues with the predicted signings in this exercise from PFF.