Grading each Steelers move in free agency: Pittsburgh aces several signings while answering key roster needs


In his final months as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ general manager, Kevin Colbert is going out with a bang. During the opening stages of free agency, Colbert, who plans to step down following next month’s draft after 22 years on the job, put the Steelers in a favorable position to contend for a playoff spot as well as a division title for the next several seasons. 

Given the strength of the AFC, the Steelers needed to have an active free agency in order to put themselves in position to contend for a postseason berth in 2022. In lieu of making big, splashy signings, the Steelers instead made several smart, savvy acquisitions that made sense both on the field and in the checkbook. While there is still work to be done, the Steelers have strengthened several areas of their roster heading into next month’s draft. 

Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to grade the moves Colbert and company made during the initial wave of free agency, starting with the quarterback who will compete to be the team’s Week 1 starter. 

Free agent signings Mitchell Trubisky

Grade: ADeal: 2 years, $14.285 million 

The top quarterback on the open market, the Steelers got great value for a former Pro Bowl quarterback who went 29-21 as a starter in Chicago. Given his skillset and the offense he ran with the Bears, Trubisky should be able to execute offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s offense that includes a bevy of RPOs. 

The best case scenario is that Trubisky can be a longterm starter. He could also be a bridge between Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh’s next longterm starter, which could be a rookie quarterback if the Steelers decide to go that route with the 20th overall pick. If they do, the Steelers will put themselves in an even stronger position at quarterback. If they don’t, Pittsburgh already has a good situation with Trubisky in position to compete against Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins for the job. 

Myles Jack 

Grade: ADeal: 2 years, $16 million 

By signing Jack and parting ways with Joe Schobert, the Steelers saved $7.8 million in cap space. In Jack, Pittsburgh is getting a 26-year-old linebacker who had a highly-productive run during his six seasons in Jacksonville. An upgrade from Schobert, Jack gives the Steelers added flexibility in the event that Devin Bush does not rebound following a disappointing 2021 season that saw him return from injury. 

Levi Wallace

Grade: A-Deal: Two years, $8 million 

Wallace, given that his projected market value was set by Spotrac at $9.6million per season, was an absolute steal for Pittsburgh. The 26-year-old cornerback logged 57 starts in Buffalo that included five postseason starts. He spent the majority of the 2021 season as the Bills’ No. 1 cornerback after Tre’Davious White suffered a season-ending injury. Wallace already has familiarity with Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, as both players were starters on Alabama’s 2017 national championship team. 

James Daniels

Grade: A- Deal: Three years, $26.5 million

Pittsburgh desperately needed depth in the interior of their offensive line, and they largely addressed that need in free agency. Instead of going after a big-name linemen who is closer to 30, the Steelers instead acquired two young yet experienced linemen who should make significant contributions now and over the next several years. 

The 24-year-old Daniels spent the first four years of his career with the Bears, where he made 49 starts in 55 games. Daniels started in each of Chicago’s 17 games last year after being sidelined for 12 games with a torn pec muscle in 2020. The 39th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Daniels made 23 starts at center during his final two seasons at Iowa before making the move to left guard upon his arrival in Chicago. 

Mason Cole

Grade: BDeal: 3 years, $15.75 million  

The 97th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Cole has seen time at both guard positions as well as at center during his four-year NFL career. He has 39 career starts under his belt that include seven starts during his only season with the Vikings. Cole spent his first three seasons with the Cardinals, where he made 32 starts that included 16 starts at center during his rookie season. 

Cole played collegiately at Michigan, where he was a four-year letterman and a three-time All-Big Ten honoree. Primarily a left tackle in college, Cole made 51 consecutive starts for the Wolverines that included 13 at center. In 2014, he became the first true freshman in program history to start a season opener. 

Gunner Olszewski

Grade: B+Deal: 2 years, $4.2 million  

Pittsburgh was in need of an upgrade here since taking Diontae Johnson off of special teams duties after the 2020 season. In Olszewski, the Steelers are getting a former All-Pro returner who averaged 12.6 yards per return in three seasons in New England. In 2020, Olszewski led the NFL with 346 punt return yards and an average of 17.3 yards per return. If there’s any drawback here, it’s the fact that Olszewski has just nine career receptions, compared to the 59 receptions former Steelers punt return Ray-Ray McCloud tallied during his two years in Pittsburgh. 

Re-signed Dwayne Haskins 

Grade: B-Deal: 1 year, $2.54 million 

Pittsburgh retained Haskins after he signed his one-year restricted free agent tender. A former first-round pick, Haskins is a major underdog in his upcoming position battle against Rudolph, Trubisky and whoever else the Steelers bring in at quarterback. Haskins showed some good things last preseason, his first with the Steelers. He briefly challenged to take Rudolph’s spot on the depth chart before failing to do so during his final start of the preseason. 

Chukwuma Okorafor

Grade: B+ Deal: 3 years, $29.25 million 

Despite receiving interest from other clubs, Okorafor decided to stay in Pittsburgh to the tune of a three-year deal. A 2018 third-round pick, Okorafor has been steady as Pittsburgh’s starting right tackle over the past two seasons. At 24, Okorafor is still a young player who probably is still on the upward trajectory of his career. Keeping Okorafor in the fold helps keep some stability to an offensive line that will look different in 2022. 

Miles Killebrew 

Grade: B Deal: 2 years, $4 million 

Killebrew’s return is a big win for Pittsburgh’s special teams units. A fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Killebrew joined the Steelers last season following a five-year run with the Lions. He earned an All-Pro vote last season for his role on special teams.

Arthur Maulet 

Grade: BDeal: 2 years, $3.85 million 

Maulet is a solid backup defender who also contributed on special teams. Maulet brings continuity and stability to a secondary that will likely not include Joe Haden, a starter since coming to Pittsburgh in 2017. Adding to Maulet’s value is that he is a physical, hard-hitting player who can defend the run. 

Montravius Adams

Grade: C 

Adams returns to Pittsburgh after jumping on the Steelers’ moving train late in the 2021 season. Adams didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but he was able to be a spot starter when injuries besieged the Steelers’ defensive line late in the season. Look for the Steelers to further address their defensive line during the draft. 



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