Predicting the first 3 moves of Steelers in free agency

Here are a few players and positions the Steelers could target as their first order of business in free agency.

Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

The free-agent frenzy is about to ensue. On March 11th, the legal tampering period will open at noon Eastern Time and NFL teams will be rushing to negotiate contracts with the best free agents on the market. Since the end of the 2023 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been taking baby steps to increase their salary cap space ahead of free agency.

Patrick Peterson became the most recent cap casualty, as Pittsburgh cut the veteran loose to save an additional $6.85 million toward their 2024 cap. With their newfound cap space, the Steelers could make a handful of signing early in free agency.

But what will Omar Khan and the front office prioritize first?

Based on roster needs, salary cap space, and Pittsburgh's previous free agency trends, I've taken a stab at predicting their first three free agent signings in 2024.

Prediction 1: Steelers will sign a mid-level center

If there's one thing we know about the Pittsburgh Steelers when it comes to free agency is that they never ink deals with the cream of the crop on the market. Historically, this team has been conservative when it comes to spending and they would rather build through the draft.

Some of these philosophies could change with Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl running the show, and there were reports that they tried to sign Pro Bowl OT Orlando Brown Jr. last offseason. Still, I think they err on the side of caution when it comes to spending.

The first position they could look at is the center. After releasing Mason Cole, the Steelers don't have a capable center on their roster, and they know they can't enter the draft without a stable body at the position. Tennessee's Aaron Brewer makes a lot of sense. Brewer is young, reasonably affordable, and a good scheme fit.

It doesn't hurt that Brewer's first season in the NFL came with Arthur Smith on the Titans in 2020. Brewer wouldn't be a Pro Bowl-level signing for Pittsburgh, but he would be an upgrade over Cole.

Prediction 2: Steelers will fork up for a good punter

Almost as important as covering your bases at the center position is finding a punter in free agency. The Pressley Harvin experiment did not work out for the Steelers, and Pittsburgh cut their former seventh-round draft choice after the 2023 season.

There are some quality options in free agency, and I don't think the Steelers will be willing to save a few bucks at the position this time around. Tommy Townsend is among the most notable. He was excellent with the Chiefs early in his career. Former Browns punter Corey Bojorquez is also coming off an excellent year.

For a team that wants to play great defense and rely on excellent field position, they can't afford to skimp in free agency when it comes to the punter position. They need someone they can trust.

Prediction 3: Steelers will sign a starting cornerback

The top two cornerbacks were quickly snatched off the market as L'Jarius Sneed and Jaylon Johnson received the franchise tag just ahead of free agency. This leaves the CB pool a bit depleted, with older prospects making up the most notable group.

The Steelers aren't going to find another lockdown cornerback to pair with Joey Porter Jr., but adding a quality player who projects as a solid CB2 is not impossible. Kendall Fuller is one of the best remaining from this group, but the asking price could go too high.

My guess is that they go with a player like Sean Murphy-Bunting -- a corner who still has good years left in the tank and would be a good fit alongside Porter if they can't find an upgrade early in the draft. This would make a lot of sense.