We started this series with a little over two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made by then. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2023 NFL Draft.
The Steelers had a number of notable starters hit free agency this year, and their retention success rate was mixed, re-signing Larry Ogunjobi but losing Cameron Sutton, for example. Largely, however, what they lost they replaced, adding Patrick Peterson in Sutton’s stead.
They also had another active year in outside free agency beyond replacing missing pieces, or voluntary departures, such as Myles Jack. The most notable move was Isaac Seumalo being signed along the offensive line. While Terrell Edmunds is gone, Damontae Kazee was retained and Keanu Neal was added. Likewise, Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts come in and replace Devin Bush and Robert Spillane.
The team did not have to make drastic moves in order to get into cap compliance, but they did release two high-salaried players in linebacker Jack and William Jackson III, the latter of whom never dressed for them. As of now, they have restructured only one contract to create cap space, that being Minkah Fitzpatrick, though restructuring T.J. Watt later this offseason is very possible.
Position: Tight End
Total Positional Figure: 4
Offseason Additions: 0
Offseason Deletions: 0
Pat Freiermuth: Freiermuth has been a good, solid starter through two NFL seasons, but one wonders how much higher his ceiling is. He did have more success down the field last year, but he can do a better job getting open, particularly in creating separation. It might help if they vary his routes as well—defenses began to key into that.
Zach Gentry: A former fifth-round flier, Gentry has obviously worked out well since then relative to what could have been. He is a decent number two, but certainly upgradeable. That was reflected in their rather limited willingness to commit to him in re-signing him to a cheap one-year deal this offseason.
Connor Heyward: A sixth-round pick last year, Heyward was drafted primarily for the purpose of coming in and playing special teams at a high level, but also with the upside as a versatile offensive contributor with a jack-of-all-trades skillset. He ended the year with nine tackles and a touchdown, so not a bad start.
Rodney Williams: An undrafted rookie a year ago added to the practice squad at the start of the season, Williams is a receiving tight end with an interesting athletic profile. The fact that he is still here is at least noteworthy, but the odds of him pushing for a roster spot are low.
Players Added: N/A
Players Deleted: N/A
Notes And Draft Outlook:
With the Steelers bringing back Zach Gentry, but doing so on a bargain deal, they are seemingly giving themselves room for options. Only retained on a one-year contract, Gentry, in other words, would not be an impediment to their drafting another tight end.
I’m not sure that’s what they’re thinking—really, I’m not seeing that in their movements up to this point—but it wouldn’t be shocking. And with the tight end position this year, there is seemingly Darnell Washington as an early option for them and then that’s it. If they don’t land him, they might as well wait until later in the draft before worrying about it.