Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season is over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn our attention to the offseason and everything that means. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.
Player: WR Steven Sims
Stock Value: Sold
Reasoning: The Houston Texans recently announced the signing of former Steelers wide receiver Steven Sims, who was their return man last season, to a one-year deal worth up to $1.7 million. He was a restricted free agent, and Pittsburgh elected not to tender him at a cost of more than $2.6 million, allowing him to hit the open market.
The Steelers had three restricted free agents of note entering this offseason. Two are under contract, while one remains unsigned but who has had some interest. The latter is interior lineman J.C. Hassenauer. Cornerback James Pierre did sign a one-year deal to stay in Pittsburgh.
But Steven Sims is now in Houston after agreeing to a one-year deal reportedly worth up to $1.7 million. It marks the second offseason in a row in which the Steelers have lost their return man in free agency after Ray-Ray McCloud signed with the San Francisco 49ers a year ago.
A former college free agent in 2019, Sims spent his first couple seasons in Washington before failing to make the roster in 2021. He spent most of that year on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, but squeaked onto the 53-man roster last season.
Gunner Olszewski, signed that offseason as a free agent, helped seal Sims’ roster security after fumbling multiple times in the first few games of the year. The Steelers decided to bench him and input Sims, who did have some moments as a return man. He had an 89-yard kick return in week five, the longest return for the team since JuJu Smith-Schuster housed one in the season finale in 2017. In fact, it’s the only one of 50-plus yards since then.
Sims also took on a greater role on offense following the mid-season trade of Chase Claypool, averaging about 30 snaps per game after the bye week. He was not targeted frequently, but finished the season with 14 catches in all. He also had 13 rushes for 70 yards.
The Texans evidently saw a little more potential for his future than the Steelers did, considering he didn’t exactly sign a very robust deal. Perhaps the difference proved to be the ‘up to’ part of the deal. Pittsburgh very rarely employs incentives into their contracts, which can hurt them in cases like this. They make rare exceptions, as they did with Mason Rudolph and Mitch Trubisky.