This year the team didn’t let Killebrew, 28, reach free agency. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Steelers are bringing him back on a two-year contract worth $4 million.
Two Blocked Punts in 2021 Equals a Big Pay Raise in 2022
That’s a significant bump in pay compared to what Killebrew earned last year, when he was paid a $990,000 salary along with a $137,500 signing bonus, as per overthecap.com.
Of course, the former fourth-round pick of the Detroit Lions (No. 111 overall in 2016) made a significant impact for the Steelers last season, despite the fact that he played only 44 snaps on defense and recorded just 13 tackles (nine solo), as per Pro Football Reference.
Killebrew was responsible for two of the Steelers’ biggest special teams plays of the year, including a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III in the team’s season-opening upset victory at Buffalo.
Then he blocked another punt in Week 11 against the Chargers in Los Angeles, sparking a fourth-quarter comeback that ultimately fell short as the Steelers lost 41-37.
This year he’ll attempt to display more of the special teams magic that earned him three All-Pro votes in 2021, as he builds on a career that has spanned 95 games, the first 78 of which came with Detroit between 2016 and 2020. To date the Southern Utah product has recorded a total of 118 tackles (97 solo), along with two interceptions, six passes defensed and one forced fumble.
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Pittsburgh’s Starting Strong Safety is an Unrestricted Free Agent
Meanwhile, the Steelers still need to determine if they can retain starting strong safety Terrell Edmunds, a former 2018 first-round pick who is set to reach unrestricted free agency because the Steelers declined to pick up his fifth-year option back in May 2021, which would have cost the Steelers $6.573 million. By itself, that’s not a daunting sum, but the Steelers did pick up free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick’s fifth-year option at a cost of $10.612 million. In other words, had they picked up both options, the Steelers would have had more than $17 million tied up in their starting safeties in 2022.
Rumor has it that the Steelers still want to retain Edmunds, but at a lower cost. And if they can’t keep him they will move to Plan B, which is to try to sign unrestricted free agent Jordan Whitehead, a 2018 fourth-round pick who played his first four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Whitehead has produced comparable stats to Edmunds, the latter of whom has been referred to as an “average” starting safety, one whose “best ability is his availability,” as Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin once put it.
The legal tampering period opens on Monday March 14 at Noon Eastern. Free agency begins on Wednesday March 16 at 4 p.m. ET.
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