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Steelers Analysis

Re-Setting Steelers Needs after Two Weeks of Free Agency

Wide receiver has risen to the top of the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason needs, following two weeks of trades and free agency.



Pittsburgh Steelers WR Diontae Johnson, Allen Robinson II
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers Diontae Johnson and Allen Robinson II during a game against the New England Patriots on Dec. 8, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Omar Khan has been busy through the first two weeks of the free agency, making a handful of signing and two big-splash trades.

But the work is just half done, as the Steelers still have significant needs on their roster. How do they shake out now that Khan has started to lay the groundwork for the 2024 season?



The Steelers had five wide receivers on their roster last year, and they figure to carry at least that many in 2024. Right now, they have three. George Pickens, Calvin Austin III and free agent Van Jefferson make up the totality of the Steelers’ wide receivers room at the moment, and that’s something that is going to have to change.

The Steelers have been linked to San Francisco 49ers star Brandon Aiyuk on the trade market, and former Cincinnati Bengals slot man and Pittsburgh native Tyler Boyd on the free agent market. Aiyuk and Boyd are two very different players, and that highlights the depth of the Steelers’ need here. Diontae Johnson was the starting Z wide receiver. Allen Robinson II was the starting slot receiver. They need one of each, and will likely acquire one before and one during the 2024 NFL Draft.

Top Free Agents:
Odell Beckham Jr., Boyd, DJ Chark, Michael Gallup, Byron Pringle, Hunter Renfrow, Josh Reynolds, Michael Thomas, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, Quez Watkins
Rd. 1 Draft Options:
Brian Thomas Jr. – LSU, Adonai Mitchell – Texas, Xavier Worthy – Texas
Rd. 2 Draft Options:
Roman Wilson – Michigan, Xavier Legette – South Carolina, Ricky Pearsall – Florida, Ja’Lynn Polk – Washington, Malachi Corley – Western Kentucky
Rd. 3 Draft Options:
Devontez Walker – UNC, Jalen McMillan – Washington, Jermaine Burton – Alabama, Brenden Rice – USC, Johnny Wilson – Florida State, Javon Baker – UCF

Pittsburgh Steelers C Mason Cole

Pittsburgh Steelers center Mason Cole during practice on Jan. 3, 2024. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now


Like wide receiver, the Steelers’ need at center is entirely of their own creation, as the club released Mason Cole earlier this offseason.

That is starting to look like it might have been premature. The Steelers have not signed a player to replace Cole, despite bringing in at least one center — Buffalo’s Mitch Morse — on a free-agent visit. Now, Morse and nearly every other player that has started at center in their NFL is off the free agent market.

What the Steelers have left to pick from is three players with significant blemishes: Connor Williams of the Miami Dolphins tore his ACL in Week 14 last year and is not yet near health, Brian Allen of the Los Angeles Rams played just one full season out of the last five, and Nick Gates was released by the Washington Commanders one year into a three-year deal last year.

General manager Omar Khan talked up the positional versatility of guards Nate Herbig and James Daniels during his chat with the media at the 2024 NFL Combine. But Herbig has played just 49 career snaps at center and Daniels hasn’t played there at all since 2019.

There needs to be some kind of addition at the position, and the options are slim.

Top Free Agents:
Cole, Gates, Williams
Rd. 1 Draft Options:
Jackson Powers-Johnson – Oregon, Graham Barton – Duke
Rd. 2 Draft Options:
Zach Frazier – WVU
Rd. 2 Draft Options:
Sedrick Van Pran – Georgia

Pittsburgh Steelers CB Patrick Peterson

Pittsburugh Steelers DB Patrick Peterson against the Cincinnati Bengals, Dec. 23, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now


The Steelers shored up their outside cornerback position in the Johnson trade, acquiring Donte Jackson from the Carolina Panthers, and then getting him to take a pay cut to make the cap work. Between Jackson, Joey Porter Jr., Darius Rush and Cory Trice Jr., the Steelers have four players at outside cornerback, more than enough to go into the season.
But none of those players have regularly or extensively played in the slot. Rush did a little bit last year as the Steelers’ Dime cornerback, but at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, he’s certainly better-suited outside. Jackson has the body type for it, but played just five snaps in the slot for Carolina in 2023.

Now, the good news for the Steelers at cornerback is that there are options, including the incumbents, as free agents Patrick Peterson and Chandon Sullivan have not signed with another team. The other is that slot cornerbacks usually don’t cost a lot in terms of cap space or draft capital.

Top Free Agents:
Tre Herndon, Avonte Maddox, Peterson, Sullivan K’Waun Williams
Rd. 1 Draft Options:
Terrion Arnold – Alabama, Quinyon Mitchell – Toledo, Nate Wiggins – Clemson, Cooper DeJean – Iowa
Rd. 2 Draft Options:
Ennis Rakestraw Jr. – Missouri, Kamari Lassiter – Georgia, Mike Sainristil, Michigan, Max Melton – Rutgers
Rd. 3 Draft Options:
Kris Abrams-Draine – Missouri


Pittsburgh 2024 NFL Draft Prospect Georgia OT Amarius Mims

Georgia offensive lineman Amarius Mims (65) is shown aginst SOuth Carolina during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


The Steelers have one of their tackle spots locked up long term with Broderick Jones currently playing right tackle. The idea is for him to eventually move to left tackle and replace Dan Moore Jr., who is entering the final season of his contract.

This isn’t a place for a stop-gap free agent. Even if the Steelers use their first-round pick on a tackle, Moore is likely to start for at least some of the 2024 season, just like Chuks Okorafor did before giving way to Jones last year.

The very good news is that this is one of the deepest tackle classes in recent memory.

Rd. 1 Draft Options:
Olu Fashanu – Penn State, Taliese Fuaga – Oregon State, J.C. Latham – Alabama, Troy Fautanu – Washington, Amarius Mims – Georgia, Tyler Guyton – Oklahoma
Rd. 2 Draft Options:
Kingsley Suamataia – BYU, Patrick Paul – Houston, Kiran Amegadjie – Yale
Rd. 3 Draft Options:
Blake Fisher – Notre Dame, Roger Rosengarten – Washington


The Steelers have all of their top four defensive lineman returning, but it’s a position that needs attention beyond the No. 5 depth option, a spot manned by Armon Watts in 2023. Cam Heyward is 34 and coming off a major injury. Larry Ogunjobi struggled in 2023 and could be a candidate to be a salary cap casualty if he doesn’t improve. Keeanu Benton is one piece of the future, but more are needed.

Rd. 1 Draft Options:
Byron Murphy – Texas, Johnny Newton – Illinois
Rd. 2 Draft Options:
Braden Fiske – Florida State, Kris Jenkins – Michigan, Ruke Orhorhoro – Clemson, Michael Hall Jr. – Ohio State, Maason Smith – LSU
Rd. 3 Draft Options:
Leonard Taylor – Miami, DeWayne Carter – Duke, McKinnley Jackson – Texas A&M



The Steelers will not return any of their three quarterbacks from the 2023 season, and while they brought in Russell Wilson and Justin Fields impressively cheaply, they will need more depth than that.

For this segment, we’ll exclude any free agents that likely wouldn’t entertain an offer to be the team’s third quarterback and start the draft pick choices at Round 4.

Top Free Agents:
Kyle Allen, Feleipe Franks, Trevor Simian, Nate Sudfeld
Rd. 4 Draft Options:
Spencer Rattler – South Carolina, Michael Pratt – Tulane, Jordan Travis – Florida State
Rd. 6 Draft Options:
Joe Milton – Tennessee, Sam Hartman – Notre Dame


Anthony McFarland Jr. and Godwin Igwebuike are both free agents, leaving the Steelers with just Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren in the running backs room. With both of those players likely to hit free agency at the same time after the 2025 season, they’ll likely look to add a player with upside.

Top Free Agents:
Lynn Bowden, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerrick McKinnon, Dare Ogunbowale, Boston Scott
Rd. 4 Draft Options:
Bucky Irving – Oregon, MarShawn Lloyd – USC, Audric Estime – Notre Dame, Will Shipley – Clemson, Ray Davis – Kentucky
Rd. 6 Draft Options:
Isaac Guerendo – Louisville, Daijun Edwards – Georgia, Tyrone Tracy Jr. – Purdue, Dylan Laube – New Hampshire, Jawhar Jordan – Louisville, Isaiah Davis – South Dakota State


The Steelers have three of the four spots locked down, with T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith and Nate Herbig all playing well in 2023. The other spot could be returning vet Markus Golden, who remains a free agent. But there are other options here, both in free agency and in the draft.

Top Free Agents:
Tyus Bowser, Bud Dupree, Golden, Randy Gregory, Charles Harris, Emmanuel Ogbah, Yannick Ngakoue,
Rd. 4 Draft Options:
Gabriel Murphy – UCLA
Rd. 6 Draft Options:
Jalyx Hunt – Houston Baptist, Myles Cole – Texas Tech, Brennan Jackson – Washington State, Zion Tupuola-Fetui – Washington, Cedric Johnson – Ole Miss, Xavier Thomas – Clemson, Braiden McGregor – Michigan, Jaylen Harrell – Michigan, Grayson Murray – UCLA

Steelers LB Mark Robinson

Steelers linebacker Mark Robinson against the Indianapolis Colts, Dec. 16, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now


The Steelers have four on their active roster after signing Patrick Queen in free agency, but the team having to go “off the couch” to find an injury replacement instead of being able to use Mark Robinson in 2023 was not a ringing endorsement of the second-year player. There’s a chance they could still look to upgrade this position, including with their own free agents, Kwon Alexander and Myles Jack.

Top Free Agents:
Alexander, Zach Cunningham, Khaleke Hudson, Jack, Shaq Leonard, Blake Martinez, Tyler Matakevich, Mykal Walker
Rd. 4 Draft Options:
Cedric Gray – North Carolina, Tommy Eichenberg – Ohio State, Trevin Wallace – Kentucky
Rd. 6 Draft Options:
Curtis Jacobs – Penn State, Ty’Ron Hopper – Missouri, Edefuan Ulofoshio – Washington, Marist Liufau – Notre Dame, J.D. Bertrand – Notre Dame, Tyrice Knight – UTEP, Nathaniel Watson – Mississippi State receivers on their roster last, and they figure to carry at least that many in 2024. Right now, they have three.