It has become a yearly tradition where former Steelers players that left the organization for ‘greener pastures’ realize how much better they had it in Pittsburgh. And, there isn't anything the Steelers love more in free agency than bringing those players back into the fold. On lesser contracts than they were originally offered, might I add.
Case in point: James Harrison, Larry Foote, Antwaan Randle El, Sean Davis, Jerald Hawkins, Plaxico Burress, Matt Spaeth, William Gay...you get the point.
In an offseason where the Steelers have plenty of holes to fill, and not a lot of cash to spend, bringing players back that have knowledge of their systems becomes extremely valuable. Below is a list of players that could make their way back to Pittsburgh this offseason.
Note: Some of these players have burnt bridges with the fan base with either there on field play, or off field behavior, but having played in Pittsburgh before makes them more valuable than some other veteran minimum type players. You have been warned.
Salary Cap Casualties
If these players are cut by their old teams the Steelers must target them for a multitude of reasons. Most prominently, a released player does not count toward the compensatory formula which could bring the Steelers more additional 2022 draft picks.
The Detroit Lions paid Jesse James a ton of cash and then proceeded to rarely use him. It appears likely that James will be released, and could be the guy to replace the retired Vance McDonald.
If you asked me what would be the most likely move for the Steelers this offseason, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you it would be scooping B.J. Finney back up. If the Bengals shed Finney, and his $3 Million dollar cap hit, it would only seem right for him to be one of the pieces to lessen the blow of Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement.
The Steelers need more inside linebacker depth, and any team would be foolish to not want Matakevich’s special teams upside. ‘Dirty Red’ could once again call Pittsburgh home if his price tag is too high in Buffalo.
I included Sanders on this list strictly because of how dire the New Orleans Saints salary cap situation is. The 33 year old wide receiver could save the team $6 million if he is released after June 1st. While it’s probably the least likely cut on this list, Sanders could fill the void left behind from JuJu Smith-Schuster quite well.
These guys are pure free agents and can be signed at anytime. Though I doubt the Steelers will look to bring many of them back in, they are names to watch nonetheless.
Antonio Brown & Le’Veon Bell
I lumped these two guys together for obvious reasons. Both Brown and Bell set flame to every bridge that connected them to Pittsburgh. However, I suppose you can say never say never in pro sports. The Steelers were among one of the betting favorites to land Le’Veon Bell after his release by the Jets. Antonio Brown stated at the Super Bowl he still keeps in touch with Mike Tomlin.
Again, it’s unlikely but these two had to be included on this list.
Probably the most likely player to actually sign with the Steelers this offseason. Beachum could push for a starting job anywhere along the Steelers offensive line. His ability to snap the ball as well as play tackle makes him an extremely valuable piece for an offensive line that needs a ton of help.
Burns seemed to decline every passing season he was in the NFL. From making the NFL’s All-Rookie team to being benched in the final year in Pittsburgh it’s fair to say Burns was a bust. After signing a one year one million dollar deal in Chicago, Burns tore his ACL and missed the entire season. Perhaps if he is to get one more shot in the NFL it would be on a veteran minimum deal in the place it all started.
After two seasons in Pittsburgh, Ross Cockrell has been able to stay in the NFL. Most recently, Cockrell helped the Buccaneers win its second ever Lombardi trophy in a reserve role. His return to Pittsburgh would hinge on what the team does with the other players currently on roster.
The Steelers are going to need to add some depth to its outside linebacker room. With a number of players on the way out, bringing Chickillo back to play a reserve/special teams type role would make sense.
This move would hinge on what happens with Avery Williamson, Robert Spillane, and whether or not the Steelers cut Vince Williams. If Barron is willing to play special teams I wouldn't be surprised by this return in the slightest.
‘Big’ Dan McCullers has been the name Steelers fans loved to say “that guy is still here?” after the past seven training camps. Like a cockroach that seemingly can't die, an eighth straight year of McCullers making the team would be equal parts hilarious and sad.
But what do you think? Which of these guys will return to the Steel City for one more go around? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.