Making the media rounds during the opening day of the NFL Combine, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Omar Khan appeared on Movin’ The Sticks with Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan. Khan was asked what the Steelers are prioritizing right now when it comes to contracts, and Khan said the Steelers are trying to keep their own pending free agents in a Steelers uniform.
“We always prioritize our own guys. So it’s re-sign. I’d say for us it’s re-sign our own guys. We’ve got some key free agents that we’d like to keep,” Khan said.
With Cameron Sutton, Larry Ogunjobi and Terrell Edmunds along with Damontae Kazee, Chris Wormley and Robert Spillane set to hit free agency, Pittsburgh has a lot of talent on defense that they’re going to look to retain. Sutton is priority number one, as he developed into the team’s best cornerback last season and his metrics put him at the level of a shutdown-type cornerback. Ogunjobi played in 16 games and while he didn’t rush the passer as well as he was able to in the past, he was solid against the run and is a good piece to have on the defensive line. Edmunds had his best year as a pro as one of the leaders of a young secondary, and it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Pittsburgh make a push to retain him to start at safety next to Minkah Fitzpatrick.
For the Steelers’ defense to play at the level it did in 2022, bringing back at least three of their pending free agents is going to be crucial, and it starts with Sutton. The team has a need at cornerback with or without Sutton, but that needs becomes a gaping hole if Sutton were to depart in free agency. Khan said earlier today that negotiations with the cornerback have started, and I would say the odds of him returning are above 50%. Getting Sutton a new deal is likely going to be the first thing Pittsburgh looks to do in free agency.
Pittsburgh’s free agency situation is going to be interesting. They have a number of ways to create cap space, with the easiest and most likely being releasing cornerback William Jackson III, who didn’t play a game in Pittsburgh after being acquired at the trade deadline. They’ll have cap space to bring in outside free agents, but it’s going to be interesting to see which of their own free agents the Steelers choose to retain.
They have some holes that can be filled in the draft, but keeping their defensive core intact will be important, especially after the way the unit played down the stretch in 2022. With a handful of guys due to depart, I’m curious to see how the Steelers spread their money around and which in-house free agents they decide to prioritize.