The Pittsburgh Steelers may sign another unrestricted free agent or two between now and the beginning of the 2021 regular season. That’s a sentiment that’s widely shared among NFL observers, with outside linebacker, cornerback and offensive tackle among the positions where the team is most likely to add veteran help.
In fact, the Steelers were among a short list of teams reportedly interested in Washington outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who ultimately decided to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles.
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Russell Okung is a 2x Pro Bowler
Another name that has surfaced in connection with the Steelers is former Pro Bowl offensive tackle Russell Okung, with ESPN staff writer Bill Barnwell predicting that the team will add the former Top 10 draft pick later in the offseason.
Barnwell isn’t the only analyst who believes that Okung, 32, is a good match for the Steelers. Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus names Okung as a “favorite’ fit” for Pittsburgh, saying it “makes sense to bring on a reliable veteran to man the left tackle position on a one-year deal.”
The argument is that the Steelers need a veteran insurance policy at the position, as the team lacks proven NFL talent at both tackle positions. Indeed, the Steelers have fourth-year veteran Chukwuma Okorafor “penciled in” at left tackle, and Okorafor has just 19 games of experience as a starting tackle, including 15 games last year on the right side.
Meanwhile, the projected starter at right tackle, Zach Banner, has only two career starts, one of which came last September, when he won the starting right tackle job in training camp, only to suffer a torn ACL in the season opener.
On the other hand, it’s very possible that the Steelers are simply determined to get younger at tackle, and will only pursue a veteran free agent in the event that multiple injuries strike the position group, or it becomes clear that the combination of Okorafor, Banner and 2021 fourth-round pick Dan Moore Jr. (not to mention free agent acquisition Joe Haeg) aren’t up to filling the starting and reserve tackle jobs.
Keep in mind that the Steelers also have five offensive tackles on one-year Reserve/Future deals, and the team is no doubt hoping that at least one of those players emerges as a roster-worthy player.
What Would It Cost to Sign Russell Okung?
It’s safe to say that Okung won’t be able to command anything like what he played for in the past, especially when one considers his age and recent injury history. Last season he was limited to starting seven games for the Carolina Panthers (calf injury) and in 2019 he started just six games for the Los Angeles Chargers. But with career earnings of close to $110 million (per overthecap.com), perhaps Okung would be willing to sign with the Steelers for little more than the veteran minimum, if he has few other suitors and wants to continue his career.
Okung has been in the NFL since 2010, when the Seattle Seahawks selected him No. 6 overall. His Pro Bowl seasons came in 2012 and 2017.
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