Steelers rumors: Pittsburgh to bring back every high-priority free agent

Steelers, Cameron Sutton
Steelers, Cameron Sutton / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

Free agency is now just days away and barring some big developments, it looks like a handful of starters from the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 roster will be set to test the open market. At this point, it almost seems like a sure thing. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that they will ink deals with other clubs.

Recently, Steelers insider Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette held a chat Q&A with fans. When asked about which free agents will be brought back, Dulac listed practically every big name. These included Cameron Sutton, Terrell Edmunds, and Larry Ogunjobi. In the list he fired off, Dulac also mentioned role players Robert Spillane, Zach Gentry, and James Pierre among the players who will be returning.

Obviously, this could just be Dulac's best guess at what will happen. Though he might be right on some of these names, it seems unlikely that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be able to get each of these extensions done -- especially if any of them feel that the grass is greener on the other side.

Steelers free agency approach

I know that Omar Khan and his crew have been busy with the NFL Combine, but not a single step has been yet to free up the cap space necessary to make any of these signings possible. As of March 9th, the Steelers sit at $5.2 million in the hole in terms of effective cap space, according to Over the Cap.

In order to even have a shot at getting back a player like Cameron Sutton, Pittsburgh will need to start making cuts in a hurry -- starting with releasing a player like William Jackson III, which could save the team over $12 million in cap space. However, Sutton alone is projected to make between $7-10 million on his next contract in new money average.

Regardless of what they intend to do in free agency and which players they plan to keep, this is going to be determined by the market. If teams happen to get into a bidding war for a player like Cameron Sutton, Pittsburgh may not be able to compete with other teams who have loads of cap space.

Realistically, re-signing players like Gentry, Pierre, and Spillane seems much more reasonable, as they won't draw a lot of buzz in free agency. When it comes to their starters, I'm not so sure that I would be as bold as Gerry Dulac to predict that all three of Sutton, Edmunds, and Ogunjobi will return.

If this proves to be the case and the Steelers do indeed resign all six of the players that Dulac mentioned, it will likely leave Pittsburgh very thin in terms of spending money when it comes to adding outside talent in free agency. That would have to be something they can live with.

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We will soon see how much truth there is to these Steelers rumors as we are just days away from the start of the 2023 free agency period. The legal tampering period begins on Monday, March 13th, with free agency kicking off on Wednesday, March 15th. Follow along at Still Curtain for the latest updates and analysis.