The Pittsburgh Steelers longtime Quarterback Ben Roethelisberger announced his retirement from the league after 18 seasons, forcing longtime Head Coach Mike Tomlin to do something he has never had to do in his 14 seasons in Pittsburgh: Draft a Starting Quarterback. How will the Steelers and Tomlin begin their rebuilding process having made the playoffs in 2021 and be competitive in the years to come?
2021 Record: 9-7-1 (2nd in AFC North)
GM: Kevin Colbert
HC: Mike Tomlin
OC: Matt Canada
DC: Teryl Austin
2021 Statistical Leaders
Ben Roethlisberger: 390-605 64.5% 3,740 22-10 (16 games)
Najee Harris: 307-1200-7, 74-467-3
Diontae Johnson: 107-1161-8
Pat Freiermuth: 60-497-6
Minkah Fitzpatrick: 124 Tak, 2 Int, 7 PD
Joe Schobert: 112 Tak, 6 PD
TJ Watt: 64 Tak, 22.5 Sak, 5 FF
Notable Free Agents:
Pos, Name, Age, Contract Status, 2021 Snap Count
CB - Joe Haden (33), UFA, 54.0%
WR - Juju Smith-Schuster (26), UFA, 18.9%
S - Terrel Edmunds (25), UFA, 98.2%
RG - Trai Turner (29), UFA, 92.4%
(7) Projected Cost of Rookie Picks in 2022: $3.3m
Round 1 #20
Round 2 #52
Round 3 #84
Round 4 #138
Round 6 #190
Round 7 #223
Round 7 #239
Compensatory Picks: 4th #105 (Bud Dupree)
Despite inking TJ Watt to a massive contract this season, the Steelers find themselves in a nice spot entering the 2022 off-season. They are currently 28.7m under the cap with 60 players currently under contract for the 2022 season. They have some notable free agents (listed above) that they might want to retain and their 2022 Draft class is projected to cost 3.3m (according to overthecap.com), so they have some wiggle room to work with to add some solid depth.
While the Steelers are financially in the “green” they could still look to restructure some deals and walk away from others to free up some more cap room before the March 16th free agency period starts.
Cameron Heyward signed a 4-year extension in 2020 and is set to make 17.4m in 2022 and 22.2m in 2023 and 22.4m in 2024 at the ‘tender’ ages of 34 and 35 so an extension for him would probably be off the table, but a restructure would not be out of the question.
Stephon Tuitt is 29 and entering the final year of his deal with 3 more voided years after that. The Steelers would be wise to redo his deal if they can as he will cost 13.9m against the cap in 2022.
With Minkah Fitzpatrick and Devin Bush set to enter the final year of their deals, the Steelers have to be conscious of losing them after the 2022 season. Leading receiver Diontae Johnson is also entering the final year of his deal as well.
With 7 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft and players that were vital to the team’s success in 2021, the Steelers don’t need to look outside of their own building to get the talent that they want. While they could look to the draft to add some cheaper talent, and possibly look to trade some players who are on the final year of their deals, since they will be in a rebuilding mode in 2022, they need to secure some cap space to do so. They are projected to take a quarterback with their 20th pick in the draft, a position that Mike Tomlin hasn’t had to deal with in his tenure in Pittsburgh, so don’t be shocked if the Steelers make a splash with some trades this off-season.