Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agents 2022: Trai Turner, Terrell Edmunds, and finding a QB are top priorities

The Pittsburgh Steelers have several players set to become free agents in 2022. Who will they bring back, and who will be playing elsewhere?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a significant number of players set to be free agents in 2022. Amongst them are a handful of key players at the non-skill positions. With one of the better cap situations in the NFL, Pittsburgh is in a good position to improve their roster in free agency.

Pittsburgh Steelers free agents in 2022

Following the conclusion of the 2021 NFL season, the Steelers have 20 players with expiring contracts. 14 of them will be unrestricted free agents, three are exclusive rights free agents, and three are restricted free agents. All players are unrestricted free agents unless stated.

Top Steelers offensive free agents

The Steelers’ most significant offseason loss had nothing to do with an expiring contract. Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement leaves the team needing a new quarterback for the first time in nearly two decades. Other than Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ offensive free agents aren’t essential players. Let’s take a look at the most prominent free agents on offense.

Trai Turner | G

Amongst current Steelers players with expiring contracts, Trai Turner is easily the most important one to re-sign. The five-time Pro Bowler is still only 29 years old and remains a very reliable offensive lineman, which is the most important position group for the Steelers to address this offseason (after QB).

Turner signed a one-year deal with the Steelers last offseason. He’s expressed his interest in returning in 2022. Ultimately, I would expect the two sides to work something out to bring Turner back.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud | WR

Of course, these three wide receivers are not created equal. JuJu Smith-Schuster will easily command the most money in free agency. Smith-Schuster was fully expected to leave Pittsburgh last year, but he ultimately returned to the team on a one-year deal. Presumably, he expected an increased 2022 salary cap would allow him to sign a bigger contract.

The 25-year-old wide receiver was correct that the cap would escalate. Unfortunately, Smith-Schuster barely played in 2021. He hurt his shoulder in Week 5 and didn’t return until the Steelers’ Wild Card loss to the Chiefs. After last offseason, I won’t rule out Smith-Schuster returning to Pittsburgh, but it’s safe to assume he wants a starting job somewhere. He’s not getting that behind the vastly superior Diontae Johnson, and he’s unlikely to unseat Chase Claypool either. Expect Smith-Schuster to shed his black and gold jersey for a different uniform in 2022.

As for James Washington, he is as good as gone. Washington notably tried to demand a trade out of Pittsburgh last August. He’s spent the past two seasons buried behind Johnson, Claypool, and Smith-Schuster. Washington is by no means a special player, but he’s better than a rotational WR4. Depending on how barren the wide receiver depth chart is where he signs, Washington may get a chance to start in 2022.

Ray-Ray McCloud was forced into action at WR due to injuries. His primary job is on special teams, particularly returning punts and kicks. Look for the Steelers to bring him back with a short extension.

Eric Ebron | TE

It feels like Eric Ebron has been in the NFL forever. Yet, he’s still just 29 years old. Ebron is going to get a chance to play a relevant role somewhere. I really hope it’s not in Pittsburgh.

With the emergence of rookie TE Pat Freiermuth, the Steelers should let Ebron walk. He made $6 million in 2021. Even if he is willing to take $4-5 million, his presence on the field means less Freiermuth. That’s bad for the Steelers. Look for Ebron to latch on somewhere else this season.

Top Steelers defensive free agents

The Steelers have very few defensive players set to hit free agency. With that said, two of them are pretty important players that the team should look to bring back.

Joe Haden | CB

Last offseason, Joe Haden negotiated an extension with the Steelers, but nothing ever materialized. Now entering his age-33 season, questions surround Haden’s future in Pittsburgh.

Haden was an above-average cornerback in 2021 but far from the shutdown guy he used to be. He failed to record a single interception. Haden made $11.2 million last season. He is undoubtedly looking for something around that number per year in an extension. The Steelers will try to re-sign him, but I can’t imagine them breaking the bank. Haden’s 2022 status is very much up in the air.

Terrell Edmunds | S

The Steelers probably should have given Terrell Edmunds an extension prior to the 2021 season. After another strong year, bringing back their starting safety should be on their to-do list. Edmunds is just 25 years old, and the team has $32 million in cap space, according to Spotrac. I will be surprised if Edmunds doesn’t get an extension this March.

The Steelers’ other free agents in 2022

What other Steelers players are free agents in 2022? Some of these players inevitably won’t return next season.

  • Ahkello Witherspoon | CB
  • Miles Killebrew | S
  • Josh Dobbs | QB
  • B.J. Finney | C
  • Arthur Maulet | CB
  • Kalen Ballage | RB
  • Chukwuma Okorafor | OT
  • Dwayne Haskins | QB (RFA)
  • Marcus Allen | S (RFA)
  • Robert Spillane | LB (RFA)
  • J.C. Hassenauer | C (ERFA)
  • Demarcus Christmas | DT (ERFA)
  • DeMarkus Acy | CB (ERFA)

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