The Pittsburgh Steelers had no need to use a franchise or transition tag on any of their prospective unrestricted free agents this offseason. Apparently, they had no need for restricted tenders either.
According to the NFL on Wednesday, the Steelers did not issue restricted free agent tenders to cornerback James Pierre, wide receiver Steven Sims, center J.C. Hassenauer or running back Jeremy McNichols. Had they done so, any issued would have likely been Right of First Refusal tenders, the lowest-level tender, which is a one-year contract worth $2.627 million for 2023.
Thee four players in this category may sign a player contract with any club without any penalty or restriction, including, but not limited to, draft-choice compensation between clubs or first refusal rights of any kind, or any signing period.
Restricted free agent tenders would have given the Steelers the right to match any offer sheet from another team signed by the four players. However, the Steelers would receive no draft compensation had they failed to match any offer sheets signed by the four players. None of that is an issue now.
Pierre, a former undrafted free agent, saw spot duty on defense in 2022, especially after fellow cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon went down with a hamstring injury. Pierre played 260 defensive snaps in 2022 and 196 more on special teams in 2022.
Pierre finished the 2022 season with 20 total tackles, one interception and four passes defensed. Additionally, the cornerback logged another nine total tackles on special teams in 2022 and also recovered a fumble. He was targeted 27 times in coverage in 2022 and allowed 12 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown, per Pro Football Focus.
Sims started the 2022 regular season as a constant on the team’s gameday inactive lists following his making the 53-man roster out of training camp. Sims began to get a helmet starting in Week 5 but a hamstring injury caused him to go back to the inactive list again in Week 7. From Week 8 and on, however, Sims was active for every game.
Sims finished the season with 19 punt returns for 105 yards with a long of 24 yards and 13 fair catches. He also registered 17 kickoff returns for 434 yards and a long of 89 yards. As a receiver, Sims had just 14 receptions for 104 yards on 23 total targets. He registered 13 rushes for another 70 yards. Sims saw his offensive playing time increase quite a bit after the Steelers traded wide receiver Chase Claypool in early November, with a good amount of those snaps coming in the slot.
Hassenauer dressed for all 17 regular-season games as the team’s backup center and even got a helmet over former third-round draft pick Kendrick Green. Hassenauer played 46 snaps at center in 2022, and that’s because the Steelers’ offensive line remained extremely healthy all season. The former undrafted free agent out of Alabama also logged 71 special-teams snaps during the season, all coming on the field goal and extra point teams.
As for McNichols, he spent all of the 2022 season on the team’s Reserve/Injured list due to a shoulder injury that he suffered at the start of training camp.
It will now interesting to see if the Steelers attempt to re-sign any of the four players to lower deals.