2022 Steelers Season Recall: Front office makes unusual splash(es) as free agency begins

Steel City Underground presents our 2022 Steelers Recall: a look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.

With the start of the NFL free agency period just around the corner, it’s incredible to think about what happened only a year ago around the same time.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, led by a soon-retiring GM Kevin Colbert, had never been big spenders who sought after in-demand free agents. However, with several holes to fill on their 2022 roster, we would see that the front office would change their routine position to usher in the era that would begin without Ben Roethlisberger for the first time since 2004.

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Bringing back their own

In true Steelers tradition, the team came to terms with several of their own impending free agents before allowing them to negotiate elsewhere.

Among those who were re-signed, OT Chukwuma Okorafor was the biggest name that was brought back, as the team entered the offseason with several questions along their offensive line.

Slot corner Arthur Maulet and special teams standout Miles Killebrew were also re-signed.

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Mitchell Trubisky

The first domino to fall was an answer as to who would replace the now retired Roethlisberger at quarterback.

Typically, you’d be surprised to hear any news of the Steelers “tampering” with players before the official signing period begins. However, in 2022, news quickly broke within hours of the legal tampering period’s beginning that Pittsburgh had come to terms with the top name among the free agent quarterbacks available: Mitch Trubisky.

The former second-overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft spent a season backing up Josh Allen with the Buffalo Bills, seeking another opportunity to become a starter in the league. He would join a Steelers team, which at the time, only had Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins under contract on their QB depth chart.

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James Daniels & Mason Cole

While Trubisky’s signing was surprising, he wasn’t signed to a large contract. His $14 million dollars was spread over two years, which is a bargain for a potential starting quarterback.

This move hinted that the Steelers would still be frugal in pursuing team needs, which still included several holes along the offensive line. Anyone thinking so would soon be proven wrong, as the Steelers signed two different free agents to help shore up the o-line.

The first of those two was guard James Daniels, formerly of the Chicago Bears, who signed a Daniels signed a three-year, $26.5 million contract. They would also get their new center, signing away OL Mason Cole from the Minnesota Vikings with his own three-year deal worth $15.7 million.

Effectively, both players (on a per-year average) were catapulted into the top ten of their respective positions by signing with Pittsburgh. Both would become full-time starters in 2022.

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Wide Receivers

Not all of the free agency news was pleasant, as the Steelers lost not one, not two, but three of their wide receivers within days. Pittsburgh would lose JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud as free agency started.

Some felt that the sky was falling, but Smith-Schuster hasn’t had a 100-yard receiving game in over two seasons with the Steelers, while Washington was barely able to crack any meaningful playing time, and McCloud was primarily a return specialist.

With Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool as current starters, and 2021 practice squad signings like Anthony Miller and Steven Sims on the roster too, the Steelers didn’t have to stretch to sign veteran replacements… other than former Patriots Pro Bowl return specialist Gunner Olszewski.

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More Moves

Despite several moves already, the Steelers weren’t done yet. They would sign two cornerbacks, snagging Levi Wallace away from the Bills while bringing back Ahkello Witherspoon, who the Steelers traded for a year earlier.

DT Montravius Adams was also re-signed, while one-year deals were offered to Genard Avery and Karl Joseph.

However, one of the bigger splashes the team made was adding former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack to the team. To make room for Jack, Pittsburgh would release his former teammate, Joe Schobert, following a single disappointing season in the Steel City.

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