Steelers need to sign permanent solution players during the 2023 free agency period
The Steelers have a longstanding 'tradition', let's refer to it as that for the moment, of not being major players in free agency. While we have signed some players who were significant contributors to our cause, something we will delve into shortly, we have generally signed players who can be labeled as 'tier two' players. This approach has simply not worked out very well and must change if the Steelers are to return to prominence.
Without doing a whole bunch of research, I would dare say that the last free agent we signed who was a significant component of the team was Joe Haden, who played with us for five seasons from 2017 to 2021 and earned one Pro Bowl nod. Haden played in sixty-eight games for the Steelers, starting sixty-seven of them. Haden was a 'tier one' free agent after his release from the Cleveland Browns. He was what I would call a permanent solution player.
Unfortunately for us, the jury is out on our recent free-agent signings. Of the group of players we signed in 2022, I would offer that Mason Cole, James Daniels, and Larry Ogunjobi are the only players who performed well enough to be considered potential long-term players. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Ogunjobi played so well that he may have played himself out of being able to be re-signed.
Steelers must target 'tier one' free agents
Therein lies the dilemma. We signed a free agent who performed well and now we may not want to 'pony up' the dollars it would potentially take to re-sign him. If that scenario plays out, we would have to draft a player to replace him or sign another free agent and hope that whomever we sign is as good, if not better, than Ogunjobi.
Hope, however, is not a plan. A plan is a plan. I think we need to formulate a plan that will enable us to keep our own pending free agents and supplement through the draft. The other way to look at is this: Draft well and supplement through free agency which is frankly what we used to do.
Make no mistake, Omar Khan and the front office staff will be tested not only with the approach we take with respect to how we deal with our own pending free agents but with free agents from other teams.
Are we going to continue to sign sub 'tier one' free agents and hope that we 'catch lightning in a bottle' or are we going to commit to signing top-tier free agents to more than a one-year 'prove it' type of deal? As I said earlier, hope is not a plan. A plan is a plan. Khan needs to sign players like James Farrior and Ryan Clark, who were two invaluable members of the Steelers defense for the six seasons they played together, rather than signing players who are 'one and done'.