Steelers Should Explore Loading Defense With Another 3-Time All-Pro

Mike Tomlin

Getty The Pittsburgh Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin should consider looking into acquiring another big defensive playmaker this offseason.

With a little roster maneuvering, the Pittsburgh Steelers could have some salary cap space to play with in free agency.

Free agency might not be where he’s available, but cornerback Jalen Ramsey hinted with a Twitter post on January 13 that he might have played his final game with the Los Angeles Rams.

If that’s the case, could Ramsey and the Steelers be a match this offseason?

It’s a long shot, but the Steelers should perform their due diligence and explore the possibility of adding the 3-time All Pro.

How Ramsey Potential Fits With the Steelers

Last offseason, the Steelers re-signed cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and added fellow cornerback Levi Wallace in free agency. Unfortunately, those moves didn’t work out as planned.

Wallace stood out at times. He finished second on the team with 4 interceptions and 13 pass defenses, both of which were career highs. Like a lot of Steelers players, Wallace also generally played much better in the second half.

But he struggled with inconsistency. Due to some really poor performances, Wallace finished below average in Pro Football Focus’ player grades. He ended the year ranked 49th among 75 cornerbacks who played at least half of his team’s defensive snaps in 2022.

That, though, was far better than Witherspoon. He didn’t play as much, but among NFL cornerbacks who lined up for 20% or more of his team’s plays, Witherspoon finished ranked 130th out of 136 players.

Pittsburgh’s best cornerback according to PFF was Cameron Sutton, but he is set to be a free agent this offseason.

Exploring a trade for Ramsey would help offset the potential loss of Sutton. Ramsey would also likely be cheaper in 2023 for the Steelers than Sutton.

Spotrac reported Ramsey has three years remaining on his deal and will count as at least a $22.7 million cap hit each season through 2025. However, Ramsey’s cap hit would change in the event he’s traded.

SB Nation’s Michael Beck tweeted that the 28-year-old cornerback’s cap hit would be only $5.6 million in 2023.

Spotrac estimated Sutton’s market value as about $7.6 million on annual basis on a three-year contract.

Ramsey didn’t make All Pro or the Pro Bowl in 2022. It’s not a stretch to say he isn’t the dominant player he once was.

However, he’s a big upgrade over Wallace or Witherspoon. PFF rated Ramsey as the No. 3 best cornerback among the players with at least 50% of their team’s defensive snaps during 2022. Sutton was ranked 23rd on the same list.

In 17 games, Ramsey posted 4 interceptions, 18 pass defenses, 88 combined tackles, including 4 for loss and 2.0 sacks. He also forced 2 fumbles.

In his first two full seasons with the Rams during 2020 and 2021, Ramsey made first-team All Pro. He also made first-team All Pro in 2017.

Ramsey has 19 interceptions in 108 career NFL games. In addition to three All-Pros, he’s earned five trips to the Pro Bowl.

What It Could Cost to Trade for Ramsey

The advantage to re-signing Sutton is the Steelers wouldn’t have to give up something else to acquire him. That would be the case with Ramsey unless the Rams elect to release him.

Beck had an interesting theory, though, on what the Steelers could offer the Rams in a trade for Ramsey.

The Steelers possess the No. 32 overall pick thanks to the Chase Claypool trade with the Chicago Bears.

The Bears gave up their second-round choice in the deal. But Chicago has the No. 1 pick in the draft, and the Miami Dolphins lost their first-round selection because the franchise violated league policies “pertaining to the integrity of the game.”

That means the Steelers’ draft pick from the Bears is essentially a late first-rounder this year.

It’s a valuable pick that the Steelers will likely use to fill a need the organization didn’t address at No. 17. But at least kicking the tires on Ramsey, if he can be acquired for that pick, isn’t a bad idea either.

The Steelers defense featuring a fourth 3-time All-Pro — one at a position of major need — is an absolutely scary thought.

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