NFL free agency is right around the corner, and the 2022 free agent class is a strong one. Considering that the Steelers will have more money than normal to work with in free agency, there are likely to be more roster moves than normal this March. With excitement raging among the fan base, it is time to take a closer look at which free agents the Steelers should consider signing.
Between now and March, I will be breaking down each position’s outlook in free agency, listing the top players at each position and determining which ones make the most sense for the Steelers. Today, we be looking at what Steelers should have more interest in than anything: the offensive line.
As it currently stands, the Steelers have an estimated $34,018,712 to spend, and that number will likely grow. Potential cut candidates Joe Schobert, Zach Banner, Chris Wormley, Joe Haeg, and Derek Watt could free up as much as a combined $20,584,352 in the event that each player was cut. It is true that this team has plenty of needs, but it is encouraging to know that several of these needs can be filled with quality free agent signings, thanks to the unusually large amount of cap space.
Let’s begin with a position I would like to see the Steelers invest in: offensive tackle.
Here are the top free agents at the offensive tackle position based off 2021 Average Annual Value, per Spotrac.
Nate Solder (Age: 33)
Cam Robinson (Age: 26)
Terron Armstead (Age: 30)
Duane Brown (Age: 36)
Trenton Brown (Age: 28)
Eric Fisher (Age: 31)
Riley Reiff (Age: 33)
Chris Hubbard (Age: 30)
Brandon Shell (Age: 30)
Germain Ifedi (Age: 27)
*Orlando Brown, Jr. did not make the list based on AAV, but he will be one of the top options when free agency begins.
The Steelers’ current depth chart at tackle is as follows:
Dan Moore, Jr. (under contract through 2024)
Chuckwuma Okorafor (UFA)
Joe Haeg (under contract through 2022; potential cap casualty)
Zach Banner (under contract through 2022; potential cap casualty)
Chaz Green (under contract through 2022)
Based on the current depth chart, the Steelers will need to add one, if not more, offensive tackles this offseason. While Dan Moore had a solid rookie season at left tackle, his skill set suggests that he has a higher ceiling at right tackle long-term. Zach Banner is injury-prone, and Joe Haeg does not offer enough as a starter. Few Steelers fans would be surprised if either of these two players were cut.
Let’s take a look at who I believe are the three best free-agent options for the Steelers at tackle.
Armstead was a third-round pick in 2013 from Arkansas Pine-Bluff, and he has exceeded everyone’s expectations through the first nine years of his career, developing into one of the best left tackles in the entire NFL. The price tag would match that title, but if the Steelers want to prove their dedication to fixing the offensive line, they have the money to make it happen. It could be upward of $20 million per year, but this is the second-most important position in football. If the Steelers are going to break the bank on any one position this offseason, I would do it here.
As I stated earlier, I would like to see the Steelers venture after a high-upside left tackle and move Dan Moore to the right side. However, the Steelers may very well see him as the long-term answer on the left side, especially after Ben Roethlisberger’s comments on Moore’s ability to be the team’s left tackle of the future. If they indeed go that route, the Steelers would have a gaping need on the right side of the line. Brown has experience at both tackle spots but is naturally a right tackle, and the Steelers could use a powerful run blocker on the right side. Najee Harris had a solid rookie season, but many plays ended in the backfield due to the poor run-blocking ability of Chuckwuma Okorafor and inconsistency of Trai Turner. If the Steelers were to add another guard, move Kevin Dotson to right guard, and bring in Brown at right tackle, the right side of the line would be ideal for a young running back like Harris to run behind.
Injuries have killed Fisher’s stock over the past couple years, but he is still capable of performing like a top-ten left tackle. While he never quite met expectations after being the number one overall pick, he developed into a dependable tackle who benefited from the zone blocking scheme in Kansas City. Health would obviously be a concern, but if the price tag comes down enough, the Steelers could find real value here.
Other Potential Signings
Noteboom played incredibly well in Andrew Whitworth’s absence in the playoffs. He could very well be re-signed by the Rams, but he would be a true sleeper if he hits the open market.
Crosby is unlikely to remain in Detroit after the team drafted Penei Sewell last season. He plays undisciplined at times, which will lead to occasional penalties, but he could be a nice upgrade from Chuckwuma Okorafor as a potential swing tackle.
Ideal scenario: The Steelers cut Zach Banner and Joe Haeg entirely and sign Terron Armstead to a 3-year, $65 million deal with incentives. A more likely outcome would be for the Steelers to bring in a guy like Dennis Kelley or Chris Hubbard on a cheap deal, spend a mid-round pick on a tackle in the draft, and leave Dan Moore on the left side.
What do you think will happen with the Steelers’ offensive tackle situation? Which tackle would you like to see the Steelers sign in free agency? Be sure to share your thoughts on this in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC as we inch closer to free agency and the NFL Draft.