Steelers offseason “house cleaning” begins with release of Trubisky, others: more to come?

Not even 24 hours removed from the conclusion of Super Bowl XLVIII, the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason kicked into full gear.

Within hours of the Steelers season ending to the Buffalo Bills, there was lots of speculation about some of the offseason moves Pittsburgh may make. Some of those moves were substantiated on Monday, as the team released three players: two to get under the salary cap for 2024.

Here’s what happened, how it positions the team going forward and some other moves they may make.

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Steelers release Mitch Trubisky

Trubisky was an easy cap casualty this offseason. Regardless of whether or not Mason Rudolph returns to the team, Trubisky’s contract far outweighed his value at this time: especially after being benched for Rudolph near the end of the season.

Following poor performances and getting benched, how could the coaching staff trust Trubisky as a starting quarterback ever again, even in a reserve role?

Over the last two seasons, Trubisky had a 2-5 record as a starter, throwing 8 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

With team president Art Rooney II and Mike Tomlin both publicly stating they want a competition with Kenny Pickett for the team’s starting quarterback position, it was clear that Trubisky would not be retained.

The team recoups almost $3 million in salary in 2024 and another $6 million in 2025 by cutting ties with the former second-overall pick.

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Steelers cut Chukwuma Okorafor

Okorafor had started all but one game between 2020 to 2022. However, Okorafor is another top contract that lost his starting job during the 2023 NFL regular season, being benched in Week 9 against the Tennessee Titans

The Steelers had to absolutely part ways with their former 2018 third round pick for the upcoming season, as he would be account for nearly $12 million against the salary cap.

“Chuks'” $8.7 million cap savings made it all the easier to part ways, after he was replaced at right tackle by Pittsburgh’s first round draft pick Broderick Jones. It also doesn’t help that Okorafor made some slanderous comments about his demotion while in-season.

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Steelers part ways with Pressley

I sense that fans were finally warming up to the idea of the Steelers parting ways with Pressley Harvin III as the season drew to a close.

The inconsistent punter had been a factor in the Steelers field position battles over the last three years, often showing a big leg but also shanking punts for minimal positive yield. Punts of 30 and 31 yards in the playoff matchup with the Bills all but sealed his fate.

Harvin’s net punt yards per punt average also took a dip below 40 again in 2023. With new GM Omar Khan having rostered two punters initially on the Steelers first regular season roster, many felt that Harvin’s days with the Steelers were already numbered.

Braden Mann, who made the initial Week 1 roster, was released before the start of the season, leaving Harvin as the lone man in town. However, Harvin would be replaced by former Steelers punter Brad Wing when Harvin missed two games due to injury. Wing would punt 11 times with an average of 45 yards-per-punt, but wasn’t retained once Harvin was healthy.

Wing was quietly re-added to the Steelers practice squad ahead of their Wild Card game with the Buffalo Bills, but not activated. The move would indicate, however, that internally the coaching staff recognized a change had to be made. With Harvin entering the final year of his rookie contract, this was an easy decision, although it doesn’t offer much in terms of cap savings. (The move saves the team nearly $1 million in salary.)

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Who’s next?

There are some other obvious moves that the Steelers should be making in the coming days and weeks from a business perspective.

30-year-old WR Allen Robinson may be the next cap casualty. The veteran receiver caught 34 passes for 280 yards with no touchdowns. He will turn 31 in August and would cost $11.9 million in cap space. The Steelers can save $10 million by releasing him.

Veteran CB Patrick Peterson turns 34 in July and carries a $9.7 million cap hit. The franchise can save $6.8 million with his release.

Reserve lineman Nate Herbig could save the team $4 million if they choose to move on, while Damontae Kazee turns 31-years-old this Summer and could save the team another $3 million.

While the latter moves of Herbig and Kazee may be pinching pennies and not offer much in terms of savings that could be used for their replacements, they still constitute a fair chunk of change that could be used for escalating contracts that we saw GM Omar Khan negotiate when bringing in Cole Holcomb ($2.7 million against the cap in 2023) and Isaac Seumalo ($3.6 million in 2023).

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I wouldn’t call Herbig or Kazee locks to be released. Peterson was signed with a short-term, end-of-career rental in mind and could be gone if he doesn’t make a switch to the safety position. Herbig isn’t expensive, but also isn’t cheap as a reserve lineman. However, Robinson is all but gone with WR Calvin Austin waiting for his turn among the receiver pecking order.

Two more names that come up frequently in these conversations are the defensive ends: Cameron Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi. Heyward, this year’s Walter Payton Man of the Year, is due a staggering $22.4 million in 2024. The team has a major decision to make on the 35-year-old who missed significant time this past season.

Ogunjobi, another healthy cap hit at $13.2 million this year, only saves the team $6.2 million on the 2024 cap while accounting for $7 million in dead space. It’s unlikely the team finds a replacement for the cost. Even though a dip in production hasn’t lived up to the higher figures thus far, I don’t believe Heyward or Ogunjobi will be released this offseason.

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