It hasn’t taken long for Omar Khan and assistant general manager Andy Weidl to show how they will attack free agency in the post Kevin Colbert era. The duo, along with vice president of player personnel Dan Rooney Jr., worked in concert to pull off a strong start to free agency while setting the Steelers up for a successful 2023.
With salary cap guru Khan crunching the numbers, the Steelers signed seven players during the first week of free agency. Two of those players have direct ties to Weidl, who in 2017 played an integral role in the Eagles‘ first Super Bowl victory as the team’s assistant director of player personnel. The Steelers also kept two of their own free agents while shoring up a few of their biggest personnel needs ahead of April’s NFL Draft.
For a second straight year, the Steelers signed solid veterans at bargain deals. Along with strengthening their roster for the short term, this approach should further aid Pittsburgh when it comes time to extend the contracts of the young offensive players that include Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth.
Now that the dust has started to settle, below are our grades for each of the Steelers’ free agent signings so far.
CB Patrick Peterson (2 years, $14 million)
It’s never a bad thing to add an eight-time Pro Bowler to an already solid defense. The Steelers signed Peterson instead of re-signing Cam Sutton, who inked a lucrative, multiyear deal with the Lions. Peterson is coming off of a 2022 season that saw him record five interceptions and 15 passes defended (his highest totals since 2012). He also played in all 17 games, a notable stat given his age (32).
Adding Peterson gives the Steelers another veteran presence in the locker room. The signing calls to mind the Steelers inking 32-year-old running back DeAngelo Williams in 2015. Williams ended up played a significant role in Pittsburgh’s 2015 playoff run while also helping the Steelers reach the AFC title game the following season. The Steelers are surely hoping that Peterson can have a similar impact.
G Nate Herbig (2 years, $8 million)
The 6-6, 334-pound Herbig brings a big personality to Pittsburgh. He also brings a strong desire to run block because, in his words, “the quarterback can’t get hit when you’re run blocking.” The Steelers signed Herbig to help further strengthen a running game that went from 29th in the NFL in 2021 to 16th in 2022. Herbig adds even more depth to the interior of the Steelers’ offensive line. He may even be able to beat out James Daniels for the starting job at right guard.
LB Cole Holcomb (3 years, $18 million)
In Holcomb, the Steelers are getting a rugged run-stuffer who is also solid in pass coverage. In 2021, Holcomb had a career year with 142 tackles, two interceptions, seven pass breakups and two forced fumbles in 16 games. He missed 10 games last season, however, as he suffered knee and foot injuries. Despite his lack of availability, Holcomb still finished the season with 69 tackles while averaging nearly 10 tackles per game.
The MIKE linebacker for the Commanders, Holcomb was named a team captain before the start of the 2022 season. Last year’s injury is the only possible concern with this signing. If healthy, Holcomb is an upgrade over former first-round pick Devin Bush, who had become a major liability in the middle of Pittsburgh’s defense.
LB Elandon Roberts (2 years, $7 million)
A sixth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Robert won two Super Bowls with the Patriots before signing with the Dolphins in 2020. Last season, he recorded career highs with 107 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 17 games. Roberts finished the season on a strong note by recording two sacks and 21 tackles in the Dolphins’ last three regular-season games.
A converted outside linebacker, Roberts is a better run-stuffer and pass rusher than a pass defender. This could be a concern given the fact that Pittsburgh played six games a year against the likes of Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson.
DT Larry Ogunjobi (3 years, $28.75 million)
After spending the 2022 season on a one year “prove-it” contract, Ogunjobi has been rewarded with a multiyear deal. He was a big signing for the Steelers given that they have several other defensive linemen currently on the open market.
While his stats didn’t jump off a page, Ogunjobi played well during his first season in Pittsburgh. He made 16 starts and recorded 48 tackles (seven tackles for loss) and 1.5 sacks. Ogunjobi’s sack of Watson in Week 18 helped the Steelers defeat the Browns while extending Pittsburgh’s streak of non-losing seasons to 19.
Ogunjobi was good last year, but the Steelers are probably hoping to get more statistical production in 2023, given the amount of money they are now investing in him.
G Isaac Seumalo (3 years, $24 million)
Like Herbig, Seumalo is familiar with Weidl dating to their time together with the Eagles. The 29-year-old veteran is expected to replace Kevin Dotson as the team’s new starting left guard. Including the playoffs, Seumalo made 20 starts at right guard last season after previously spending most of his career on the left side.
Last season, Seumalo helped the Eagles boast the NFL’s third-ranked scoring offense. He helped Jalen Hurts enjoy a Pro Bowl season while also paving the way for what was the league’s fifth-best rushing attack. Seumalo will look to help Pickett enjoy similar success over the next several years.
The signing of Seumalo further reinforces the Steelers’ desire to have one of the NFL’s premier rushing attacks. This is certainly a good thing for Harris and fellow running back Jaylen Warren, who enjoyed a successful partnership last season and should continue to do so moving forward.
CB James Pierre (1 year, terms undisclosed)
Pierre adds continuity to a secondary that lost Sutton and will probably lose starting strong safety Terrell Edmunds in free agency. A quality backup who has six career starts to his credit, Pierre has two interceptions, three forced fumbles and eight passes defended over the past two years. He is also a solid special teams contributor.