The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.
On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.
Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answered, starting with which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? How might they tackle the NFL Draft? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.
Question: Which players are most at risk of being cut soon after the 2023 NFL Draft?
The draft inevitably places other players’ jobs at risk. In order for a rookie to make a roster, a veteran will not. But some veterans are more vulnerable after the draft, and more immediately, and they often have a higher salary.
With the 2023 NFL Draft quickly creeping up on us, let’s take a moment to consider the near future. Examining the Steelers’ current roster, which players would be most vulnerable to a release based on the draft results, shortly after the draft?
Take into consideration the fact that the Steelers currently only have 68 players on their roster. With a seven-man draft class, that leaves them with 15 open roster spots. Now, they very well may fill those with rookie college free agents, even a surplus of them. That would necessitate releasing some players already on the roster, but 15 open spots is a decent cushion.
Another factor to consider is where the Steelers might be deep, though currently I’m not sure I would classify any one position as deep. There are certainly some expendable defensive backs, wide receivers, and offensive and defensive linemen, of course.
Dave Bryan recently took a look at four veteran players who might be at risk of losing their roster spot pending the outcome of the 2023 NFL Draft, with all four of them making more than their veteran minimum allotment. Some are due to make a bit more than others, particularly Ahkello Witherspoon, a name I also recently discussed.
One last thing to note: we are discussing players who may be released shortly after the draft, as in, in April or May. We’re not talking about making the final roster in September. Many will be brought to Latrobe who will not leave. And until the roster cuts are made, everybody is working under the Rule of 51 in terms of the salary cap. Barring some immediate need, salary is not necessarily a deciding factor at this time of year when there’s a cushion for predictable future expenses.