The 2023 NFL Draft will get underway next week and after it concludes, teams will immediately get busy agreeing to terms with players who were unselected. Usually, the Pittsburgh Steelers have an undrafted class of around 10-15 players and that doesn’t figure to change this year. Additionally, the Steelers have a history of not spending very much money when it comes to their undrafted classes and especially when it comes to fully guaranteed money. In fact, last year is all you need for evidence of that.
According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network on Saturday, the NFLPA has sent agents a financial breakdown of last year’s undrafted free agency. In total, that breakdown shows that NFL teams handed out over $19 million in guarantees, led by the Philadelphia Eagles ($1.882 million). The Steelers, however, were ranked 30th overall in 2022 in guaranteed money spent on undrafted players ($111,500). The two teams who spent less guaranteed money than the Steelers did on free agents in 2022 were the Green Bay Packers ($87,500) and Los Angeles Chargers ($97,000).
In the case of the Steelers, all $111,500 of that 2022 guaranteed money came in the form of signing bonuses given to 10 players: OT Jake Dixon (Duquesne), RB Mataeo Durant (Duke), DL Donovan Jeter (Michigan). OLB Tyree Johnson (Texas A&M), OLB T.D. Moultry (Auburn), OG Chris Owens (Alabama), CB Chris Steele (Southern California), OT Jordan Tucker (North Carolina), RB Jaylen Warren (Oklahoma State) and CB Bryce Watts (UMass). Not surprisingly, the Steelers were one of five teams last year to not provide any guarantees attached to base salaries for undrafted players signed last year.
The highest signing bonus given by the Steelers to undrafted players in 2022 was $15,000, and two players received that amount, Tucker, and Durant. Neither player wound up even making the Steelers practice squad last year, however. The lowest signing bonus given to an undrafted player last year was $5,000 and that went to Owens.
While the Steelers did initially sign 10 undrafted players right after the 2022 NFL Draft, four more, DT Trevon Mason, CB Carlins Platel, K Nick Sciba, and WR Tyler Snead, were signed after the team’s rookie camp took place. None of those four players received signing bonuses, however.
Of the 14 total undrafted free agents signed by the Steelers last year, only two were on the roster come week 1 of the regular season: Warren and Platel. Warren made the 53-man roster and stayed on it all season while Platel spent the 2022 season on the team’s Reserve/Injured list. While the Steelers Week 1 practice squad did include three rookie undrafted free agents, none of those players were part of the team until that point. They all came from other teams who had waived them.
Last year, the undrafted rookie reservation amount was $167,944. That’s the max amount of signing bonus money teams could use on signing undrafted free agents. Obviously, the Steelers didn’t come close to spending the max. For 2023, the undrafted rookie reservation amount is projected to be around $180,000 per team.
The Steelers have a new general manager this year in Omar Khan, and it will be interesting to see if he goes about the guaranteed money for undrafted free agents differently than his predecessor Kevin Colbert did. It’s doubtful that he will, however. Should Khan stick to the same principles as Colbert had when it comes to guaranteed money for rookie undrafted free agents, the Steelers 2023 class of such players isn’t likely to be too impressive overall. We’ll find out very soon if that’s the case.