clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How did the Steelers 2022 free agents pan out?

Not every free agent pick up works out for the best. How did things work out for the Steelers in 2022?

NFL: DEC 18 Steelers at Panthers Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NFL free agency is a curious thing. With players being able to reach a point in their career where they can pick and choose who and for how much they play for, there are bound to be plenty of hits and misses. For every James Farrior and Kevin Greene, there is a Donte Moncrief and Ladarius Green. Other times a player ends up more in the middle of the road like a Steven Nelson. Regardless, when all is said and done not every free agent signing pays off.

During the 2022 offseason, many Steelers fans were excited of what the team could do based on the players they acquired. While hope springs eternal that the team found all James Farriors, there’s bound to be a Donte Moncrief in the mix.

Keeping this in mind, let’s grade the 2022 Steelers free agent signings. The scale that will be used is they will be placed into one of three categories:

  • Following Farrior- the player is fitting in with the Steelers and could ascend to a much higher level in the coming years.
  • Moving toward Moncrief- although it appeared to be a good match, it’s obvious things are not working out and their time in Pittsburgh will be short.
  • Nearing Nelson- the player can give the Steelers a couple quality years before they part ways and move in a different direction.

Just to give a brief review on these players to help better understand the system, James Farrior came to the Steelers as a former first-round draft pick of the New York Jets and played for 10 seasons. By his third season in Pittsburgh, Farrior was a First Team Al-Pro linebacker and came in second in voting for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Donte Moncrief came to the Steelers after four years in Indianapolis and one in Jacksonville. Unfortunately, things did not work out well as he struggled to catch the ball and was released midway through the season. Cornerback Steven Nelson came to the Steelers after four years in Kansas City as the Steelers highest-paid free agent pickup in franchise history at the time. Starting 15 of 16 games for the Steelers in each of his two seasons, Nelson gave Pittsburgh arguably his best years of his NFL career before the Steelers moved on in their cap-strapped 2021 offseason.

So let’s check out some of the significant 2022 offseason signings for the Steelers and see which way they are trending following their first year in Pittsburgh.

James Daniels

Grade: Following Farrior

The Steelers needed to upgrade their offensive line for 2022, and James Daniels seemed to be the right fit. After a rough preseason, Daniel settled in and didn’t allow a sack in 2022. If improvement from this young player continues, he could earn himself some personal accolades in years to come.

Mitch Trubisky

Grade: Moving toward Moncrief

While giving a Nelson grade here was considered, when a player is signed to come in and be the starting quarterback and the only way he’ll see the field is if someone else is injured, it’s got to be Moving towards Moncrief. Mitch Trubisky lost his starting job in 2022, but that was going to be inevitable once the Steelers used their first-round draft pick on a quarterback. The only question is if Trubisky and the Steelers cut ties before the 2023 season.

Mason Cole

Grade: Nearing Nelson

Although Mason Cole is much closer to Farrior than Moncrief, having a middle ground where the Steelers get a few years from him before trying to upgrade the position is an accurate description. Mason Cole exceeded my expectations for 2022, but the Steelers still may see him as a stopgap until they find their next great center. Even so, he’s definitely contributing and made the Steelers offensive line better in 2022.

Myles Jack

Grade: Nearing Nelson

While some think Myles Jack could be a cap casualty, right now he’s about all the Steelers have an inside linebacker going forward other than an unproven seventh-round draft pick. If Jack can fill the shoes for a couple seasons before the Steelers can revamp the position, it’s still a quality pickup.

Levi Wallace

Grade: Nearing Nelson

If the expectation was for quarterback Levi Wallace to come in and be the Steelers first option at cornerback, then the expectations were set too high. Wallace gave the Steelers decent play at the number two position and has the opportunity to do so again next season.

Gunner Olszewski

Grade: Moving toward Moncrief

When a player comes in as a former All-Pro kick returner and he loses that job fairly early in the season, it doesn’t matter how well he does blocking downfield as a receiver and getting the occasional handoff on a jet sweep. Gunner O. had one job to do and he couldn’t do it.

Damontae Kazee

Grade: Nearing Nelson

The big question here is if Damontae Kazee sticks around. He was only signed to a one-year deal, so right now he automatically fits into this category as he did a nice job once he came off the Reserve/Injured List. Hopefully Kazee signs on again for 2023 in order to hold down the status.

Larry Ogunjobi

Grade: Following Farrior (if he stays)

The “if he stays” requirement here is huge. Larry Ogunjobi had a nice season in Pittsburgh and could be something great to build upon. The only question is if he and the Steelers can come to an agreement for him to stay on as part of the Steelers defensive front. If not, Ogunjobie goes the way of Steven Nelson and gives a quality performance while here and then continues on elsewhere.

So what do you think? Were these grades accurate based on the criteria? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.