The Pittsburgh Steelers did not use a franchise tag or transition tag on a player for the 2022 season before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline, the NFL announced.
The Steelers had not been expected to make such a move, meaning that all of the team’s pending unrestricted free agents will hit free agency when the legal contact period begins on Monday afternoon.
The players that could have been tagged include strong safety Terrell Edmunds, cornerback Joe Haden, right tackle Chukwuka Okrafor, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, guard Trai Turner and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, all of which are 2021 starters or co-starters that are set to hit free agency.
The Steelers still have six days to attempt to re-sign those players and the rest of their pending free agents before other teams can begin contacting them Monday. Free agency does not officially start until the beginning of the new league year at 4 p.m., Wednesday March 16.
Unlike most previous years, the Steelers do have enough offseason salary cap space to hope to be able to sign some or even most of their pending free agents, should they choose to do so.
Franchise tags give the player a one-year contract for the average of the five top salaries in the league at his position, or 120% of his previous salary. A transition tag averages the top 10 salaries or 120% of his previous salary. Transition players have a window where they can negotiate with other teams and the tagging team has right of first refusal. There are also non-exclusive franchise tenders.
The Steelers haven’t used a franchise tag since Bud Dupree played out the 2020 season under the tag. After that, Dupree left if free agency for the Tennessee Titans in the 2021 season. The Steelers tagged running back Le’Veon Bell in 2017 and 2018, but Bell opted not to sign his second franchise tender, sitting out the entire season before leaving for the New York Jets in free agency.