Steelers 2020 Potential Free Agent Targets

By CJ Lester


The Pittsburgh Steelers notoriously do not spend a lot of money during free agency. However, they were moderately active last off-season by bringing in a few pieces that they thought would help the team. One move panned out really well, cornerback Steven Nelson as he’s been vital to the defense’s success on the back end, locking down receivers on opposing teams on the other side of Joe Haden. Other moves like adding WR Donte Moncrief and LB Mark Barron did not play out so well. Both players underperformed in a lot of fans’ eyes and the Steelers already moved on from Moncrief during this past season. Predicting what the Steelers will do in free agency all starts with retaining their own guys!

First things first, the Steelers should re-sign or franchise tag OLB Bud Dupree after clearing some cap space by electing not to pick up the team option on TE Vance McDonald‘s contract, extend DE Cam Heyward, cut OLB Anthony Chickillo, G Ramon Foster, and LB Mark Barron. The team will have to let NT Javon Hargrave and CB Mike Hilton enter free agency as they will look to cash in with other franchises, most likely with the re-signing of Bud Dupree. So, the Steelers will lose some key defensive players this off-season, but have the depth behind them that could contribute. On the other side of the ball, the Steelers should look to re-sign one of their own, OL Matt Feiler. After cutting Ramon Foster, Feiler could excel at the guard spot, while OL Zach Banner and OL Chukwuma Okorafor compete to be the team’s starting RT. The team will also look to add cheaper pieces in free agency or the draft to fill the void left by some of their key players.  Let’s take a look at possible free agent targets the Steelers could add to fill the void of losing some key pieces or add much needed depth.



Defensive Tackle

If the Steelers are going to pay OLB Bud Dupree this off-season, they will most likely have to let DT Javon Hargrave walk in free agency. They will just not have enough cap space to re-sign both players. In the event that this scenario comes to fruition, the Steelers should really look to adding a veteran defensive tackle to fill the void that Hargrave will be leaving. Javon Hargrave showed tremendous ability to get to the QB, but I think the Steelers will look to fill the void with a big body, run stopping, Casey Hampton type player. Here are some players that come to mind that the Steelers may be able to get on a cheaper deal:


A’Shawn Robinson (6-4, 320 lbs)

Robinson would be a nice addition and he is a great run stuffer in the middle of the defense. Robinson has not played up to his potential yet, but at 25 years old this upcoming season, there is still time for him to hit his stride with the right team. The Steelers could be the right fit for the right price.


Danny Shelton (6-2, 344 lbs)

Shelton is a big body defensive tackle that shows great ability in stopping the run. Considered a bust after being drafted 12th overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 2015 NFL Draft, Shelton did not really start contributing until he was a member of the New England Patriots. Last season, he tallied 61 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. He would have to come to Pittsburgh on a cheaper deal, but it could be a nice pairing.


Andrew Billings (6-0, 311 lbs)

After missing his entire rookie year due to injury, Billings has shown the ability to get after the passer and stop the run. He has yet to reach his potential, but it would be great to see him do so with a Steelers uniform on instead of that disgusting orange and black. With a past filled with injuries, he should come at a cheaper price than other players with the same potential. Signing him could be a risk, but could the reward outweigh that risk?



Tight End

After the Steelers decline to pick up the option on Vance McDonald’s contract, they could look to bring him back on a cheaper deal. The team also traded a 5th round pick to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for TE Nick Vannett early on in the 2019 season. The Steelers could look to bring back Vannett on a team-friendly deal even if they do not bring back McDonald. The Steelers could also look to add a player to the tight end room via the draft or free agency. We are all dreaming of adding Hunter Henry or Austin Hooper, but the Steelers just don’t have the cap space to make a move like that work. If they elect to look to free agency to add tight end, here are some potential options:


Eric Ebron (6-4, 245 lbs)

Ebron is an athletic freak at the position, but shows some inconsistent play when you put on the tape. I would be lying if I said that I did not want the Steelers to sign him to a team friendly deal to try it out. He is just 27 and has shown flashes of greatness on the field. He has had trouble in the past with dropping passes or running bad routes. With his track record of inconsistent play, his market value is going to be much lower than other skilled tight ends.


Blake Jarwin (6-5, 246 lbs)

Blake Jarwin is a restricted free agent this year and the Dallas Cowboys could place an original round tender on him. He could not even hit free agency at all, but if he does, he is definitely a player that the Steelers should look to add to the tight end position. Jarwin has flashed potential to be a possession receiver at the tight end position. However, when Jason Witten unretired last off-season he was pushed down the depth chart for Dallas and did not get much of a chance to show how good he can be. He caught 31 passes for 365 yards, and 3 touchdowns.


Jordan Reed (6-2, 242 lbs)

We all know the story of the Steelers adding an injury prone tight end in the off-season (see Ladarius Green). Reed has battled concussions his entire career and more so this past season. In 2019, Reed suffered his 7th career concussion in the 3rd preseason game and never played a down for the Washington Redskins. In 2018, he caught 54 passes for 558 yards and two touchdowns. With the Steelers history of taking flyers on players like this, I could see them adding Reed to the room. If he can pass a physical and stay healthy, the Steelers could get a very talented tight end for a bargain of a contract.



Wide Receiver

The Steelers really need to add a veteran wide receiver to the room. Other than Ryan Switzer, Juju Smith-Schuster is the most experienced NFL receiver on the team and he is just 23. They swung and missed last year with Donte Moncrief, but I believe the Steelers will look to a veteran receiver to the mix this off-season. Potential targets could be:


Breshad Perriman (6-2, 215 lbs)

Perriman has been considered a bust after being drafted in the 1st round a few years ago, but shows potential of being a nice deep threat for the Steelers offense. Perriman caught 36 passes for 645 yards and 6 touchdowns a season ago. He will probably command a similar contract as Donte Moncrief did last year, but hopefully he would be much more productive. At only 26 years old, Perriman is still young, but he has experience that could contribute to the WR room.


Paul Richardson (6-0, 183 lbs)

Richardson signed a 5-year, $40 million deal in 2018 with the Washington Redskins. He was let go at the end of this past season due to lack of productivity and injury concerns. As I said before, the Steelers sometimes like to take flyers on players like Richardson. He only played 17 of 32 games for the Redskins the past two years, notching 48 receptions for 507 yards and 4 touchdowns. The lack of productivity could have been a QB problem in Washington. If he can stay healthy, with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball, Richardson could provide a veteran deep threat presence for the Steelers offense.


Phillip Dorsett (5-10, 179 lbs)

Another option at the wideout position could be Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett would provide a deep threat and be key rotational player. I don’t think he will command much of a contract, but he would provide the Steelers with the much-needed experience in the WR room. Dorsett has twice averaged over 16 yards per reception in his career. In recent years, that average has gone down, but he has the ability to be that guy in Pittsburgh. Last season, Dorsett averaged 13.7 yards per reception with the New England Patriots.


I don’t see the Steelers making any big splashes this free agency due to limitations of cap space, but I could see them adding depth pieces or players with potential on cheaper deals.


What players should the Steelers target in free agency this off-season? Let us know in the comments below!


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