3 Biggest Free-Agent Decisions for Steelers' GM and Coach in 2023 Offseason
The Pittsburgh Steelers finished 9-8 in the 2022 season, marking their 13th winning campaign during the 16-year tenure of head coach Mike Tomlin. However, they missed the playoffs for the third time in five seasons and still haven't won a postseason game since the 2016 campaign.
So, this offseason will be an important one for the Steelers, which have remained competitive while bringing in young core players to build around. What complementary moves will be made by general manager Omar Khan to help Pittsburgh take the next step?
Much of the Steelers' offense is set to return, with standouts such as quarterback Kenny Pickett, running back Najee Harris, wide receiver George Pickens and others still on their rookie contracts. But there's greater uncertainty regarding the defense, which could lose some notable names in free agency.
Here's a look at several key Steelers players the team will need to decide whether to bring back or let go.
CB Cameron Sutton
A third-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Cameron Sutton has spent his entire NFL career in Pittsburgh. But the cornerback has taken his game to another level over the past two seasons, as he's thrived in a starting role for the Steelers' defense.
The 27-year-old's contract will void in February, which could lead to him becoming an unrestricted free agent the following month. If that happens, he will become one of the top CBs available on the market.
In 16 games this past season, the Tennessee product recorded 43 tackles and set career highs in interceptions (three) and passes defended (15). After making only two starts in 36 games over his first three years in the NFL, he has made 37 starts and played 48 games over the past three seasons.
If Pittsburgh loses Sutton, it will leave a big hole in its secondary, which has been a solid unit of late. So, it should be one of the Steelers' top priorities to try to bring him back, potentially on a multi-year deal.
LB Devin Bush
The Steelers had high expectations for Devin Bush, who was selected with the No. 10 overall pick in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft. But the linebacker hasn't quite played up to those standards for much of his four-year career in Pittsburgh.
After a solid 2019 rookie season, the 24-year-old was limited to five games in 2020 due to a torn ACL. He hasn't been quite as productive since then, despite playing 31 games and making 28 starts over the past two seasons.
In the 2022 campaign, the Michigan product had 81 tackles but didn't record any sacks or interceptions. He eventually lost his starting job, playing only 10 total snaps over the Steelers' final two games of the season.
It may be time for Bush to get a fresh start and for Pittsburgh to go in a different direction. There will likely be other NFL teams willing to pay more than the Steelers to sign a player who is still young and could eventually return to form.
DT Larry Ogunjobi
Over six NFL seasons, Larry Ogunjobi has made his way around almost the entire AFC North. From 2017-20, he played for the Cleveland Browns, which took him in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft. He spent the 2021 season with the Cincinnati Bengals, before playing for Pittsburgh in the 2022 campaign.
The defensive tackle only signed a one-year, $8 million deal last offseason, so he's set to become an unrestricted free agent again this year. Will he come back to the Steelers, or will he be on the move again?
The 28-year-old was solid in his first year in Pittsburgh, making 16 starts and playing in all but one game. He had 48 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hits, but he may never be quite as dominant as he was early in his NFL career.
If the Steelers can get Ogunjobi back on another one-year deal, it may be a wise move. But if he's looking for more security with a multi-year contract, Pittsburgh could go in a different direction to fill the starting spot on the interior of its defensive line.