2023 Steelers Season Recall: Omar Khan era begins with flurry of free agent signings

Steel City Underground presents our 2023 Steelers Recall: a look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.

March 2023 marked the first full offseason for new Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Omar Khan to work his magic: and fans were about to find out how much work Khan was about to put in.

Typically quiet during the even and opening days of the NFL free agency period, Khan took Pittsburgh in a new direction, making splash signings, tough calls on players to not re-sign, and also a trade that made headlines.

Looking back one year ago, here are some of the moves Khan had us excited about.

First free agent signing announced

Patrick Peterson was the first “signing” for the Steelers during this free agency period, but wasn’t close to being the last. What made the signing of the veteran cornerback, and future Hall of Famer, unusual, was that the Steelers almost never have a player announce a deal ahead of the opening of the league year, during the legal tampering period.

Peterson made the announcement with former Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden. Peterson was reportedly “excited” to get to be a “ball player” after his conversation with head coach Mike Tomlin.

However, he wouldn’t be the only former Minnesota Viking to sign with the Steelers, as slot corner Chandon Sullivan‘s signing would be announced shortly thereafter.

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Linebackers, Linebackers, Linebackers

It was no big secret that the Steelers were ready to move on from Devin Bush and Robert Spillane. Both players were scheduled to become free agents, as the team cleaned house by also releasing 2020 starter Myles Jack.

The wave of signings at the position came one after the other, with former Commanders LB Cole Holcomb highlighting a group which also included former Dolphins LB Elandon Roberts and former Jets LB Kwon Alexander. Holcomb and Roberts were both previously captains with their former teams, while Alexander was a highly regarded veteran who met with the team, but took a couple of weeks to officially sign.

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Offensive line additions

While Khan receives a lot of credit as the GM, his assistant Andy Wiedel quietly showed he was working behind the scenes too by bringing in a pair of former Philadelphia Eagles offensive linemen, Nate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo.

Herbig caused the first stir, but it was the signing of Seumalo that headlined the entire Steelers free agent class, as Seumalo was widely considered the best guard available in free agency.

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Bringing back their own

Larry Ogunjobi was scheduled to become a free agent in 2023 after signing a late, summer deal for one season to play in Pittsburgh. Ogunjobi parlayed his performance into a new three-year deal worth $28.75 million.

The front office also re-signed Damontae Kazee, James Pierre, Miles Boykin and Zach Gentry to new contracts, while Khan would also work diligently on extending LB Alex Highsmith, who had a breakout season in 2022 with 14.5 sacks.

The team would also add veteran pass rusher Markus Golden during the summer.

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Trade alert!

Khan showed no fear in wheeling and dealing, as the Chase Claypool trade to Chicago showed during the 2022 season. Khan would make another swap for a wide receiver in April, acquiring WR Allen Robinson II and a 2023 seventh-round pick (251st overall) from the Los Angeles Rams for a 2023 seventh-round pick (234th overall).

The 29-year-old product from Penn State would land in Pittsburgh after playing only one season with the Rams, the latter of who took on a large chunk of the veteran’s 2023 salary.

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Letting others leave

You can’t catch them all, unlike Pokemon. In order to make other moves and create space on the roster (and salary cap) Khan parted ways with former 2018 first round draft pick Terrell Edmunds and starting cornerback Cameron Sutton.

Edmunds appeared close to returning to the team but opted to bet on himself and sign with the Philadelphia Eagles instead for $2 million.

Sutton, who was previously signed to a second contract with the Steelers for two years and $9 million, tested the free agency waters. He would cash in on a major three-year, $33 million contract with the Detroit Lions.

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