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End of an Era: Steelers Brace for Offseason of Change

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PITTSBURGH — On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers season ended, with the team suffered an embarrassing upset at the hands of divisional rivals Cleveland at Heinz Field in prime time.

Every sporting team’s season ends at some point, and most of the team, that means an unhappy ending except for the champions of the league.

The 2020 Steelers were no exception to that rule, as teammates like Maurkice Pouncey, Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster embraced on the field on Sunday night knowing that their time together this season had come to an end.

For this year’s Steelers team, the end is even more finite. While every team goes through its offseason changes, the Steelers are a stable franchise run by a family that values consistency above almost anything else.

“It’s tough,” Smith-Schuster said. “I sat on the field just taking it all in. You see Ben and you see guys who I’ve been with for the last four years, tremendous guys, not just players but guys off the field. I’ve learned so much and so thankful to be part of them and it means so much.”

And so the Steelers have been built over years, slowly and methodically, with players coming and going as a slow ebb and flow.

The 2021 offseason, however, may be a tidal wave.

The Steelers have 26 free agents this offseason and 21 of them are of the unrestricted variety. Before any of those players can be signed, the team will have to trim an estimated $40 million from its salary cap. That could lead to a lot of departures this offseason.

“Teams are never the same, whether it’s free agents, draft picks, trades, whatever it is,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s the hardest thing about this business. You lose some really good friends. Things always look different. Yeah, we anticipate it looking different.”

The uncertainty about what the future holds does not just lie in those without a contract, or even those without a large role. Defensive captain Cam Heyward said he feels that even his role for 2021 is not secure at this point.

“I don’t know,” Heyward said. “It’s totally possible that I could be gone next year. I don’t know what to expect. We are in uncharted territory to say the least, and changes have to be made. That’s part of the game. We all have to deal with this.”
Here is the full list of Steelers’ free agents:

UFA

DL Tyson Alualu
RT Zach Banner
P Jordan Berry
RB James Conner
SS Jordan Dangerfield
S Sean Davis
QB Josh Dobbs
OLB Bud Dupree
OLB Jayrone Elliott
OL Matt Feiler
OT Jerald Hawkins
NB Mike Hilton
OG Danny Isidora
OLB Cassius Marsh
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
DB Cam Sutton
LT Alejandro Villanueva
ILB Avery Williamson
DL Chris Wormley

SFA

RB Trey Edmunds
ILB Tegray Scales
OT Jarron Jones

RFA

WR/KR Ray-Ray McCloud
OLB Ola Adeniyi

ERFA

ILB Marcus Allen
C/G J.C. Hassenauer
ILB Robert Spillane

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