I wrote in this space three weeks ago that the first test for new Steelers general manager Omar Khan would be a familiar one.
With Kevin Colbert running the team through free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft, then team’s roster for the 2022 season is largely set. They may add one more free agent with the cap space vacated by Stephon Tuitt or find a player that gets cuts by another team that they think they can use. But for the most part, the Steelers that will take the field on Sundays this fall are securely on the roster.
Khan’s first big challenge comes with regard to setting the 2023 team up for success. Because of the team’s self-imposed restriction on negotiating contracts during the season — which does not figure to change under Khan — the best time for negotiating extensions with players who will become free agents next March is now.
The Steelers had three high-profile ones in Fitzpatrick, Diontae Johnson and Chris Boswell. Devin Bush, Terrell Edmunds and Zach Gentry will probably have to wait.
Of those top three, Fitzpatrick was the easy deal. The Steelers made him the highest-paid safety in the league. That’s not the kind of contract very many players will turn down. And yet, because the market for safeties is relatively weak, the Steelers locked up a guy who is just as important to their defense as T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward for a lot less money.
That was the relatively easy part. The off-the-rails free agent wide receiver market will not make negotiating with Johnson easy, and it’s always though to establish true value for quality kickers. More contentious days may be ahead for Khan this offseason.
TODAY’S STEELERS SCHEDULE
Minkah Fitzpatrick will meet with the media at 11 a.m. at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Saunders, Farabaugh
The team still has one unsigned pick remaining from the 2022 NFL Draft: QB Kenny Pickett. Bechtold
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