The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 season is over, and although the team ended the year on a 4-game winning streak the season came to a screeching halt when the Miami Dolphins beat the New York Jets. The season ended on a high note, finishing 9-8, but it now means the attention turns away from any progress made and onto the offseason.
While many fans immediately start to focus on the 2023 NFL Draft, the new league year, which begins with a two day tampering period on March 13th, and free agency come first. For the Steelers, they have several key players who are preparing to hit free agency, mainly on defense.
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When looking at the aforementioned list of players preparing to hit free agency, they couldn’t be more different for many reasons. For some, it’s their first time ever hitting the open market, while others have experience in this realm before.
One of the players who would fall into the latter group would be tight end Zach Gentry. The blocking tight end is hitting free agency after the expiration of his rookie contract, and is naturally curious about the process.
“I don’t know who wouldn’t be.” Gentry said when talking about his curiosity about hitting free agency. “It just depends. I have so much love for this organization and the people who are here, so it’s going to be quite the process, quite the journey. I’m just intrigued to see how it goes, what happens.”
The Steelers do try to lock up some of their free agents before the start of the new league year. Has anything happened with Gentry to indicated the team will to try and keep him?
“Nothing is set in stone.” Gentry said. “They usually don’t deal with that kind of business during the year, so I think the postseason is really when stuff like that happens.”
Another player preparing for his first time in free agency is undrafted linebacker Robert Spillane. Spillane might be excited for an opportunity to get a big, new contract, but right now he is focused on the exit process from the 2022 season.
“Right now, I’m just focused on finishing out these exit meetings and from there to get healthy.” Spillane said when talking about his approach to free agency. “A football season puts a lot of strain on your body, physically, mentally and emotionally, we pour our lives into what we do so anytime you finish up with the season there’s almost a shedding of that skin to prepare for this next season of life, which is the offseason, getting healthy, staying active and working on your game.”
As for the players who have experience with being without a contract, cornerback Cam Sutton is a unique case considering he signed his second contract with the team before the start of free agency. In other words, he never even hit the open market before signing his 2-year contract which just expired.
“I don’t even know anything about that process right now.” Sutton said when reflecting back on how he signed his last contract with the Steelers. “We’ll see what that looks like. I feel like we should still be playing ball right now, in the sense of that. So, I’m not even in that mind state of even really looking into that, to be honest. That’ll come up whenever it does I think whenever that process starts, March or something like that. We’ll go from there.”
Sutton might not sign a contract before the start of free agency again, but if he has a fair deal from the Steelers he’d like to stay.
“For sure. This is home.” Sutton said when asked if he’d like to remain with the Steelers. “This has been home to me since the beginning. There’s a strong foundation and it’s just really solid here. A lot of love for all the aspects here and the city as a whole. Like I said, we’ll see what that looks like obviously when the opportunity comes.”
Another defensive back who had a less-than-ideal stint on the open market last season was safety Terrell Edmunds. Edmunds tested the waters, and didn’t find many takers. It was so bad he ended up signing a ridiculously team-friendly contract to remain with the Steelers for one more season. Needless to say, Edmunds would like to stay with the team who drafted him.
“For sure. This is home base.” Edmunds said when talking about the thought of staying with the Steelers. “They gave me the opportunity to do what I love. They gave me the opportunity to be an NFL player, and I can’t say thank you enough for that. If they do offer me another deal, of course, I would definitely try to make things work and go from there.”
When Edmunds reflected on last year’s experience in free agency, and he admitted how there were plenty of ups and downs.
“It’s just all ups and downs. You never really know what’s really the right move until you just make it sometimes. The moves come up; you just have to go and pray about it and whatever happens, happens. He never leaves you on the trail by yourself so whenever you pray about it and you get that feeling, just go ahead and take that step and go.”
Of the Steelers free agents, there is no way for the team to bring all of them back. There will be players who get contracts from other teams which are far more lucrative than what the Steelers are willing to give out. It’s part of the modern day NFL. Roster turnover happens every year, and which players the Steelers prioritize will be something to watch as the offseason just gets started for those teams who failed to make the NFL Playoffs.
Throughout the process, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for what could be a very lengthy offseason.