NFL News & Analysis

2017 Free Agency Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers

[Editor’s note: This preview was originally published on March 2, 2017, and updated on March 6 to reflect changes in the market do to franchise tags, re-signings, cuts, etc.]

What you need to know

After franchise tagging running back Le’Veon Bell and extending Antonio Brown’s contract to make him the highest-paid wide receiver in the league, the team will likely have to settle for second- and third-tier free agents in 2017 to address other needs on the roster.

Salary cap room

$20,996,692 (23rd in NFL as of 3/6/2017)

Biggest needs

  • Linebacker
  • Cornerback
  • Wide receiver
  • Tight end

Notable free agents

  • Lawrence Timmons, LB, 48.4 overall grade in 2016
  • Jarvis Jones, Edge, 75.9
  • DeAngelo Williams, HB, 72.9
  • Markus Wheaton, WR, 49.7

Must re-sign

DeAngelo Williams, HB, 72.9 overall grade in 2016

Le’Veon Bell is arguably the best running back in the league, but he’s had some durability and off-the-field issues since being drafted in 2013. Williams averaged 26.5 touches per game with five touchdowns in the four games Bell did not start in 2016, proving he can still get it done when called upon in a lead-back role.

Dream splash

Nick Perry, Edge, Green Bay Packers, 82.2

In the first four years of his career, Perry was a good-but-not-great player for the Green Bay Packers. In 2016 though, he took his game to another level, grading out as the 19th-best edge defender at 82.2. As a player who has primarily lined up as an outside linebacker in the Packers’ 3-4 defensive alignment, Perry would be a perfect fit for the pass-rushing-needy Steelers, but will be far too expensive for the team in the open market.

Top 2017 free agency prospects

Courtney Upshaw, Edge, Atlanta Falcons, 52.2

After a couple of fairly productive seasons in Baltimore, Upshaw was used sparingly in his lone year in Atlanta. His 367 snaps (including the postseason) was well off the 620 he totaled in 2014, and a return to the AFC North makes sense for a team that can better implement his skill-set in their defensive scheme.

Captain Munnerlyn, CB, Minnesota Vikings, 75.5

The Vikings had one of the better secondaries in the league last season, led by the likes of Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman. Munnerlyn, a very effective and underrated player in his own right, would fit perfectly in on a Pittsburgh defense that plays zone coverage 77.2 percent of the time (second-most in the league), as the Vikings ranked sixth in that respective statistic.

Prince Amukamara, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars, 76.6

Similar to Minnesota, Jacksonville also played a lot of zone coverage in 2016 (the eighth-most of any team). Amukamara, who has graded out at 75.9 or better in every season since 2012, would be a great fit in a Pittsburgh defense looking for quality cornerback play in free agency.

2017 Free Agency Rankings
Top 50 free agents
Every 2017 free agent ranked by 2016 overall grade
10 free agents who can make an immediate impact
10 veteran free agents worth a one-year contract
10 sleeper free agents who could bring surprise upside
10 splash free-agent signings we’d like to see
Quarterback rankings
Running back rankings
Wide receiver rankings
Tight end rankings
Offensive linemen rankings
Edge defender rankings
Interior defender rankings
Cornerback rankings
Safety rankings
Linebacker rankings

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