Steelers' 2023 Free-Agent Big Board, Top Players to Target

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2023

Steelers' 2023 Free-Agent Big Board, Top Players to Target

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    Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin
    Steelers head coach Mike TomlinJoe Sargent/Getty Images

    The Pittsburgh Steelers' 2022 season didn't end with a playoff berth. However, it should still be considered a successful campaign, as Mike Tomlin orchestrated yet another winning season while also developing first-round rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett.

    The Steelers really gelled late in the season, winning seven of their final nine games. This, along with Pickett's development, should have Pittsburgh fans plenty excited about what's to come in 2023.

    If the team can shore up a few key positions, it should be right back in the playoff mix next year. The draft will play a part in that, but first, the Steelers will have a foray into free agency.

    With a projected $3.1 million cap deficit, they probably won't go on a spending spree in March. If they can clear enough cap space, though, a few players stand out as logical targets.

    Here, you'll find a preliminary free-agent big board for Pittsburgh and a deeper dive into three players it should target first.

Steelers 2023 Free-Agent Big Board

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    Chiefs OT Orlando Brown Jr.
    Chiefs OT Orlando Brown Jr.Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    1. OT Orlando Brown Jr., Kansas City Chiefs

    2. OG Ben Powers, Baltimore Ravens

    3. DT Poona Ford, Seattle Seahawks

    4. CB Rock Ya-Sin, Las Vegas Raiders

    5. OL Isaac Seumalo, Philadelphia Eagles

    6. OT Jawaan Taylor, Jacksonville Jaguars

    7. Edge Yannick Ngakoue, Indianapolis Colts

    8. OT Kaleb McGary, Atlanta Falcons

    9. OT Kelvin Beachum, Arizona Cardinals

    10. LB Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys

Orlando Brown Jr., OT, Kansas City Chiefs

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 16: Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (57) on the sidelines in the second quarter of an NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs on October 16, 2022 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Icon Sportswire

    Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. is perhaps the one player for which it would be logical to clear cap room and chase with a big-money contract.

    While he might not be an elite left tackle, he's a four-time Pro Bowler who can play on either side, and he's only 26 years old. He's a player alongside whom Pickett could grow, and he'd be an immediate upgrade over Dan Moore Jr.

    Brown was responsible for six penalties and four sacks allowed this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Moore was responsible for 10 penalties and seven sacks allowed, per PFF.

    The caveat, of course, is that the Oklahoma product won't come cheaply. He played on the franchise tag in 2022, and the Chiefs may not be willing to let him walk. If he does hit the open market, he has a projected value of $22.4 million annually.

    Steelers general manager Omar Khan would have to engage in some financial gymnastics to make a deal with Brown work, but doing so could solidify the most important position on Pittsburgh's line for the foreseeable future.

Ben Powers, OG, Baltimore Ravens

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    BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 20: Ben Powers #72 of the Baltimore Ravens runs onto the field prior to an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)
    Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

    The Steelers should also be eager to upgrade the left guard position, which was manned by Kevin Dotson in 2022. He beat out Kendrick Green for the starting job in camp and was serviceable, but he was by no means a star.

    Dotson was responsible for 12 penalties and four sacks allowed, according to PFF.

    Baltimore Ravens guard Ben Powers, meanwhile, was responsible for just one penalty and zero sacks, per PFF. He is well-versed in AFC North defenses and is willing to keep his options open.

    "I've had nothing but great experiences in my last four years in Baltimore, but with that being said, I do not know what the future holds," he said, per Clifton Brown of the Ravens' official website.

    The 26-year-old would be a tremendous addition to Pittsburgh's offensive interior. Not only would he help bolster Pickett's pass protection, but he would also help open running lanes for third-year back Najee Harris—which in turn, would aid the young quarterback.

    And, of course, it always feels good to steal talent away from a bitter division rival.

Poona Ford, DT, Seattle Seahawks

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    Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Poona Ford (97) is introduced before an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
    AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

    While the offensive line should take top priority, the Steelers should also be interested in addressing their defensive front.

    Star defensive tackle Cameron Hayward will turn 34 in May, while Larry Ogunjobi, Chris Wormley and Tyson Alualu are set to become free agents.

    The top defensive tackle on the market, Daron Payne, will likely be out of Pittsburgh's price range with a projected market value of $19.4 million annually. That sort of money makes sense if it means aiding Pickett, but Pittsburgh should be a little more budget-conscious here.

    With a projected market value of $9.2 million annually, Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Poona Ford is a more realistic target for the Steelers. However, this doesn't mean that he can't make a sizeable impact on the defense.

    Over the past three seasons, the 27-year-old has tallied 128 tackles, eight sacks and 36 quarterback pressures, per Pro Football Reference.

    Like Pittsburgh, Seattle tends to lean into a 3-4 base defense, which gives Ford the schematic experience needed to be an immediate contributor.

    *Cap and market information via Spotrac.