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The Steelers have had another solid free-agent frenzy

The Steelers haven’t blown anyone away with their 2023 free-agent activity, but they’ve been pretty solid. I’ll take that.

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

It was about a week ago when the NFL’s annual free-agent frenzy kicked off, beginning with the league’s legal-tampering phase on March 13th.

What would the Steelers do now that Omar Khan, and not the legendary Kevin Colbert, was running the show as the team’s general manager? Would Pittsburgh’s approach to free agency change? Would the team wow us with any big moves?

Here we are, about a week later, and both questions are easy to answer with one rather-lengthy sentence: I’m no expert on the nuanced differences between Khan and Colbert, but it doesn’t feel as if the Steelers have changed their overall style when it comes to signing players in free agency.

The Steelers’ moves have been solid, and they haven’t really wowed us.

A bit of a timeline:

Cam Sutton quickly departed at the onset of free agency; the veteran and versatile cornerback agreed to a two-year deal with the Lions.

This put everyone into panic mode (mostly on Twitter) for the entire first day of the legal-tampering phase.

However, about nine minutes into the legal-tampering phase, it was announced that Pittsburgh had agreed to a two-year deal with Patrick Peterson, the legendary cornerback, formerly of the Cardinals and Vikings.

Many free-agent dominos began to fall afterward.

Pittsburgh agreed on a two-year contract with guard Nate Herbig, formerly of the Eagles and Jets.

Not long after that deal was announced, it was reported that the Steelers had come to terms on a three-year contract with inside linebacker Cole Holcomb, formerly of the Washington Commanders. The following day, news broke that Pittsburgh had reached a deal with inside linebacker Elander Roberts, a veteran who played his first seven years with the Patriots and Dolphins, respectively.

Along with the news of the signing of Roberts came the announcement that Pittsburgh had released inside linebacker Myles Jack, a newsworthy addition from the previous season’s frenzy.

While this was all going on, the Steelers also kept some of their own, including defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi and safety Damontae Kazee, two important contributors to Pittsburgh’s defense in 2022.

It was then announced on Sunday morning that the Steelers had come to terms on a three-year contract with guard Isaac Seumalo, a 2016 third-round pick by the Eagles. Seumalo started 60 games over seven years with the Eagles and should bring great experience to the Steelers' young and evolving offensive line.

The Steelers likely aren’t done (they might have already announced another signing during the making of this article), but I’m pretty happy with their moves so far.

No, they haven’t been spectacular, but the moves have been very Steelers-like. You’re not blown away, but it’s like that lamp a fellow tenant left in the lobby that one time with a note that read: “Free.” You may not even remember what year it was when you decided to scoop that sucker up while checking your mail one day, but it sure has been clutch over the years, especially when that annoying bulb in the ceiling light often goes out.

Sure, there are questions about these new and re-signed Steelers.

For example, does Peterson, who will be 33 by the time the 2023 regular season starts, have much left in the tank? What will his contributions be to Pittsburgh’s defense? Will he play exclusively on the outside? Will he move around? Will he even play some at safety?

Will Ogunjobi overcome his recent injury issues and be the kind of presence on the defensive line that makes us finally want to move on from Stephon Tuitt and his sudden retirement?

With the signings of both Herbig and Seumalo, how much do the Steelers really hate Kevin Dotson?

Do the Steelers also secretly hate Mason Cole? After all, Seumalo can play center, as can right guard Kevin Dotson.

Will Seumalo, who has a history with injuries and is 29, remain as durable as he was in 2022?

Were the Steelers clear with their intentions when they signed Herbig, a 2019 undrafted free agent who started a combined 28 games with both the Eagles and Jets? The Steelers may have seen enough of Dotson to give him a demotion, but if they’re perfectly fine with Cole at center, Herbig seems like the odd man out in terms of starters along the interior of the line.

More questions:

Starter or not, how long before Herbig develops a cult following among Steelers fans?

I’d say by OTAs.

Has someone already made a Nate Nasty t-shirt?


Will a sandwich/cut of meat be named after Herbig?


Will Holcomb and Roberts be cut next year to make room for two more free-agent inside linebackers?

It’s likely.

Are you going to come at me for that last question-and-answer combo and also cite Holcomb’s time in the 40?


Will you remember how mean you were to me when those guys get cut next year?

Probably not.

Moving on from the questions.

Maybe you’re underwhelmed by the Steelers' free-agent activity. Perhaps you feel like beginning your assessment with “Meh.” (The most annoying way to begin an assessment on the Internet, btw.)

Fine, but you have to remember how the NFL’s free-agent system is structured.

While the best players in other professional sports leagues can say, “Screw you guys, I’m becoming a free agent,” NFL teams get to say to their best players, “Screw you, we’re slapping the franchise tag on you and preventing you from becoming a free agent.”

In other words, you’re usually not getting the best of the best when the NFL’s annual free-agent frenzy kicks off. You’re mostly getting decent starters who are looking for a raise or hopeful backups who are looking for a chance to break the glass ceiling and start for a new team.

Most NFL free-agent signings are going to come with question marks. Many won't work out.

I mean, think about it, NFL free agency has been around for 30 years, yet, people still write articles titled: “The 10 Best Free-Agent Signings in Steelers History.” And I’ll just bet the authors have a hard time coming up with a list that they’re comfortable with.

If free agency was a sure thing, there’d be fewer “The 10 Best” articles and more “The 555 Best” articles searched for on Google.

Look at it this way: If this latest haul of free-agent signings can collectively contribute to an improved Steelers team in 2023, wouldn’t that be worth it? Sure, some guys may not live up to the hype, while others may succumb to injuries and/or the constraints of the salary cap. A draft pick may also come along and blow everyone away and ruin the chances of one of these free agents having a lengthy stay in Pittsburgh.

But the Steelers will be back at it next March, trying to plug the holes and get through yet another season.

Free agency is rarely spectacular for the Steelers, but just like that lamp you found in your lobby years ago, it’s solid and still works pretty well.

It’s sometimes even clutch.