Strategic Moves: Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agency Preview

Strategic Moves: Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agency Preview

The Steelers’ Free Agency Evolution

For decades, the Pittsburgh Steelers were synonymous with frugality in free agency. However, recent years have witnessed a significant departure from this narrative. The start of each league year was once solely dedicated to salary cap compliance, with external acquisitions being rare occurrences. Yet, the onset of the pandemic caused a seismic shift in the NFL’s financial landscape, prompting the Steelers to embrace a more aggressive approach to free agency.

The Steelers’ Spending Spree

Under the stewardship of General Manager Omar Khan, the Steelers have undergone a remarkable transformation into free agency powerhouses. In the past two years alone, the organization has flexed its financial muscle by shelling out substantial sums to bolster its roster. With over $100 million invested in both external acquisitions and contract extensions for key players, the Steelers have signaled their intent to compete at the highest level.

Tier 1 Targets: Luxury Signings

In the upper echelon of the Steelers’ free agency wishlist are luxury signings, poised to significantly enhance the team’s competitiveness.

Patrick Queen, ILB, Ravens

At the forefront of the Steelers’ aspirations is Patrick Queen, the dynamic inside linebacker from the Baltimore Ravens. Since Ryan Shazier’s injury in 2017, the Steelers have struggled to find a reliable presence at inside linebacker. Queen’s potential acquisition could provide an immediate solution to this perennial problem. With an impeccable track record of never missing a game in his career and averaging 114 tackles per season, Queen brings both durability and productivity to the table. His ability to anchor the defense and contribute across various facets of the game makes him an enticing target for Pittsburgh.

Christian Wilkins, DT, Dolphins

Another prime target for the Steelers is Christian Wilkins, the disruptive defensive tackle from the Miami Dolphins. As the Steelers aim to rejuvenate their defensive line and inject youth into the unit, Wilkins emerges as a top-tier option. With stalwart Cameron Heyward nearing the twilight of his career and Larry Ogunjobi failing to meet expectations, Wilkins’ arrival could provide a much-needed injection of talent and energy. Despite the potentially steep price tag associated with his acquisition, Wilkins’ impact on the interior defensive line could prove invaluable for Pittsburgh’s defensive schemes.

Jaylon Johnson, CB, Bears

In their quest to fortify the secondary, the Steelers have set their sights on Jaylon Johnson, the promising cornerback from the Chicago Bears. While Johnson’s availability remains uncertain due to the Bears’ intentions to retain him through an extension or franchise tag, the Steelers view him as an ideal candidate to bolster their cornerback corps. Johnson’s combination of youth and experience makes him a coveted asset in the free agency market. Should he become available, Johnson could form a formidable tandem alongside emerging talent Joey Porter Jr., solidifying the Steelers’ pass defense for years to come.

Connor Williams, C, Dolphins

Addressing the need for stability along the offensive line, the Steelers have identified Connor Williams as a potential solution at center. With the departure of Mason Cole, the Steelers are in the market for a reliable anchor in the trenches. Williams’ extensive starting experience and relative youth make him an attractive prospect for Pittsburgh’s offensive line rebuild. Despite concerns about his durability, Williams’ potential as a long-term starter presents an enticing proposition for the Steelers, potentially alleviating the need to address the center position in the upcoming draft.

Devin White, LB, Buccaneers

Rounding out the luxury signings tier is Devin White, the dynamic linebacker from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite experiencing a slight dip in performance in 2023, White remains one of the premier off-ball linebackers in the league. His physicality, versatility, and ability to excel in coverage make him an ideal fit for the Steelers’ defensive schemes. Moreover, with Spotrac projecting a relatively affordable contract value for White, the Steelers view him as a cost-effective solution to shore up their linebacker corps. If secured, White could emerge as a cornerstone of the Steelers’ defense for the foreseeable future.

Tier 2 Targets: Logical Fits

As the Steelers explore the mid-tier of free agency, they set their sights on logical fits who offer both value and potential impact.

D.J. Reader, DT, Bengals

D.J. Reader emerges as a compelling target for the Steelers, bringing versatility and experience to the defensive line. Despite enduring injuries, Reader remains a disruptive force in the interior, capable of collapsing the pocket and disrupting opposing offenses. His ability to play multiple positions along the defensive line aligns well with the Steelers’ defensive schemes, making him a valuable addition to their rotation. With Spotrac projecting a reasonable contract value, Reader represents a cost-effective option for bolstering the Steelers’ defensive front.

Gabe Davis, WR, Bills

Addressing uncertainties surrounding Diontae Johnson’s future, the Steelers turn their attention to Gabe Davis, the young wide receiver from the Buffalo Bills. While Davis may not have experienced the breakout season anticipated in his fourth year, his knack for finding the end zone and physical playing style make him an intriguing prospect for the Steelers’ receiving corps. With questions looming over the depth at wide receiver, Davis’ potential to contribute both as a red-zone threat and possession receiver adds valuable depth to the Steelers’ passing attack.

Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals

With a shortage of available wide receiver talent in free agency, Tyler Boyd emerges as a prime target for the Steelers. Boyd’s familiarity with the Pittsburgh area, having grown up nearby and played college football at Pitt, adds an intriguing dynamic to his potential acquisition. Beyond sentimental connections, Boyd’s skill set as a slot receiver and ability to consistently move the chains make him a valuable asset for the Steelers’ offense. Spotrac’s modest projection for Boyd’s contract value further enhances his appeal as a cost-effective solution to bolster the Steelers’ receiving corps.

Adoree’ Jackson, CB, Giants

As the Steelers seek to shore up their secondary, Adoree’ Jackson emerges as a viable option at cornerback. Despite expressing a desire to remain with the New York Giants, Jackson’s aspirations for Super Bowl contention could prompt a change of scenery. With the ability to play both inside and outside cornerback positions, Jackson offers versatility and playmaking ability to the Steelers’ defensive backfield. While his availability remains uncertain, Jackson represents a tantalizing prospect for the Steelers’ pass defense, potentially providing a significant boost to their coverage capabilities.

Chase Young, DE, 49ers

In a surprise move, the Steelers express interest in Chase Young, the talented defensive end from the San Francisco 49ers. Despite the presence of T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith on the roster, Young’s youth, talent, and hunger for redemption after a turbulent few seasons make him an intriguing target for the Steelers’ defensive line. While the projected contract value for Young remains relatively modest, his potential impact on the Steelers’ pass rush cannot be understated. If secured, Young could provide the Steelers with a formidable trio of edge rushers, elevating their defense to elite status.

Tier 3 Targets: Useful Veterans

As the Steelers delve deeper into free agency, they turn their attention to seasoned veterans who can impart leadership and experience to the roster. Jonnu Smith and Fletcher Cox epitomize this group, offering a blend of talent and intangibles that could prove invaluable in high-pressure situations. Smith’s familiarity with Offensive Coordinator Arthur Smith’s system bodes well for his integration into the Steelers’ offense, while Cox’s pedigree as a perennial Pro Bowler adds gravitas to the defensive line.

Tier 4 Targets: Lesser-Impact Options

Even as the Steelers explore higher-profile acquisitions, they remain cognizant of the value that lesser-known players can bring to the team. Nick Gates and Jacoby Brissett epitomize this ethos, offering depth and versatility across multiple positions. While their names may not generate headlines, their contributions on the field could be instrumental in fortifying the Steelers’ roster depth.


In conclusion, the Pittsburgh Steelers have undergone a remarkable evolution in their approach to free agency. Armed with ample cap space and a willingness to spend, the Steelers are well-positioned to address key areas of need and fortify their roster for the challenges ahead. As the tampering window opens and negotiations commence, Steelers fans can anticipate an exciting offseason filled with potential acquisitions and roster reshuffling.

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