As the 2022 NFL offseason moves towards the summer, free agency becomes more and more of an afterthought. With teams shaping the roster for this fall via the NFL draft and undrafted free agents, teams have had their rookie minicamps and are moving into the heart of OTAs. For this reason, news of free agent signings is much more sparse.
When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, there are a number of players from their 2021 roster who have yet to find a home for 2022. Could it still be in the cards that these players return to Pittsburgh this season? Will they find the proper landing place in the coming months? Will any of them decide to call it a career and move on from their time in the NFL?
The answers to these questions may not be known for some time. But to make sure we have all the information, here are the six main remaining free agents who were on the Steelers 2021 roster that are still unsigned at this time.
Joining the Steelers in free agency for 2021, Kalen Ballage has played for four different franchises in his four NFL seasons. With the Steelers last season, Ballage appeared in every game but had no starts and only 12 rushes for 36 yards in the regular season with four rushing attempts for 13 yards in the playoffs. Ballage also added two receptions on seven targets for 8 yards. Only playing 65 offensive snaps, Ballage did see some playing time on special teams with 98 snaps during the regular season.
Whether or not Ballage showed enough with the Steelers to catch on with another team remains to be seen. While it would likely take an injury somewhere in training camp for him to get a call, the likelihood of him being the call in Pittsburgh is becoming less and less.
Coming back to the Steelers in 2021 after a season away in Seattle and Cincinnati, B.J. Finney did not see a return to success like he had in his previous years in Pittsburgh. With 13 starts over four years from 2016 to 2019, Finney did not see an offensive snap in 2020 despite a lucrative contract in Seattle, and was traded to Cincinnati mid year to simply move him off the books.
Coming back to Pittsburgh in 2021, Finney did have two starts at guard but only played three snaps in a second game before suffering a neck injury. Whether or not the injury will allow him to continue his NFL career remains to be seen, but as of now he is still a man in search of a team.
Sometimes guys just can’t catch a break. There is so much to love about Zach Banner and his personality. After being adored by fans as a jumbo tight end and “reporting as eligible” in 2019, Banner won the starting right tackle job for 2020 but didn’t even last a game before being lost for the season with any injury. Having a setback to start 2021, Banner landed on IR again and never really recovered to a point to be used in a starting role.
With too much of a base salary to hold on to for 2022, Banner was released early in the new league year and has yet to catch on with another team. Even playing outside of Pittsburgh, I’m sure there will be a good portion of the Steelers fan base pulling for him to succeed.
Moving into the second half of the list where each player is a former Pro Bowler, Eric Ebron spent two seasons in Pittsburgh in 2020 in 2021 after four years in Detroit and two years in Indianapolis. Making the Pro Bowl in 2018, a season where he had 13 touchdown receptions, Ebron only had six receiving touchdowns in two seasons with the Steelers. In all, Ebron appeared in 23 games in Pittsburgh with 68 receptions on 109 targets for 642 yards. Ebron also had a one-yard rushing touchdown in 2021.
Unfortunately, Ebron’s last play with the Steelers, perhaps ever, came when he was injured on his single touchdown reception of the season against the Chargers. Whether or not the 29 year old will find another spot in the NFL is anybody’s guess at this point.
Joining the Steelers during the 2021 preseason via trade, Joe Schobert had his fifth-straight NFL season with more than 100 tackles. A Pro Bowler in 2017 with the Cleveland Browns, Schobert spent one season in Jacksonville in 2020 before the Steelers traded for him in exchange for a sixth round draft pick.
With a huge salary due to him in 2022, Schobert simply became expendable when the Steelers signed another former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker in Myles Jack. Since his release in March, rumors of Schobert landing with another team have been silent as he looks to catch on somewhere for 2022.
Out of all the players on this list, Joe Haden is the one many Steelers fans wouldn’t mind seeing in the black and gold to finish out his career if the right circumstances present themselves. After seven years in Cleveland, Haden spent the last five years in Pittsburgh where he was selected to his third Pro Bowl in 2019. Appearing in 68 games with 67 starts over five years, Haden has 10 interceptions in a Steelers uniform with one being returned for a touchdown. Haden also has 54 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and over 200 tackles in his time in Pittsburgh.
Yet to find the right situation, Joe Haden is either waiting for the proper opportunity or the acceptable salary in order to land on a 2022 NFL roster. While he has posted things on his social media about moving on, until Haden signs with another NFL franchise the possibility of returning to Pittsburgh this season will be a point of discussion among Steelers’ fans.