It’s that time of year again. Free agency is creeping up in just a couple of weeks, so before we get there, we’ll get going over the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, position by position, making an assessment of what kind of shape they’re in, trying to figure out how they might, or should, attack the roster on that basis.
The Steelers have several key players due to become free agents shortly, and a number of large contracts could be salary cap casualties, so a lot will be changing in the near future, but this is where things stand, at each position, as of this writing.
Total Positional Figure: 9
Kevin Dotson: Entering the final year of his rookie contract, this is the sink-or-swim opportunity for Kevin Dotson to prove to the Steelers that he is a starter. Depending on what they do in free agency and the draft, he may not even get that opportunity.
Mason Cole: Signed as a free agent a year ago, Cole had a solid first season in Pittsburgh as a full-time starter. The Steelers have shown notable interest at center so far, however, leading to speculation that they could be looking to replace Cole, and possibly kick him out to guard.
James Daniels: The prize of the team’s free agent class last year, James Daniels took a bit of time to settle in but finished the season as a very solid right guard. He remains a work in progress as a run blocker overall but had arguably the best season of his career in pass protection.
Kendrick Green: The former third-round draft pick is hovering perilously over the label of bust, which some might argue shouldn’t apply to a player selected as late as that. Nevertheless, he only dressed last season when there were injuries. The only way he stays on the 53-man roster is if Pittsburgh doesn’t pick up enough extra bodies.
Ryan McCollum: A former college free agent out of Texas A&M he was teammates with Dan Moore Jr., McCollum spent the 2022 season on the Steelers’ practice squad. He is much more of a center than guard.
Pending Free Agents:
J.C. Hassenauer: Hassenauer has been the primary backup center for the past two seasons, but didn’t get to play much last year since the starters remained healthy. A restricted free agent, I suspect the team will value him enough at the original-round level, which would pay him about $2.6 million.
Trent Scott: The man who follows offensive line coach Pat Meyer wherever he goes, Scott was the swing tackle for the Steelers last season, but he is also capable of playing guard.
Jesse Davis: Like Scott, Davis is tackle-guard capable, but his resume shows him to be better on the outside. After sitting on the bench all season, he’s not likely to have a robust market.
Though they return all three starters from last season, one has to assume that the Steelers are open to making changes here, particularly at left guard and perhaps center as well. All told, the only lineman who should feel 100 percent confident is Daniels.
It’s very possible that the Steelers draft an interior lineman with one of their top four picks, most likely in the second or third rounds, and that player would likely vie for a starting job immediately. It wouldn’t be handed to him, however, I don’t suspect, at least not initially. I’m not anticipating any movements in free agency beyond retaining their own, although a cheap veteran reserve is not out of the question.