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Random Steelers Observations: First Week of Free Agency

This is my first Random Steelers Observations article of the offseason. This just feels like the perfect time to share some of my random thoughts and opinions.

We are one full week into a free agency period like none other for the Steelers franchise. The offseason for Steelers Nation used to be a time for personal introspection and growth during the Kevin Colbert era. About as boringly predictable as watching a Matt Canada gameplan.

Those surprisingly simplistic offseasons are no more. They have been replaced by the enthusiastic and energetic approach of Omar Khan. Khan’s more modern approach closely resembles a wide-eyed toddler jacked up on Halloween candy and a Red Bull. This is Khan’s second offseason in charge, and one thing is apparent; Khan isn’t afraid to roll the dice.

Now it’s time to take a look at some of my random thoughts and observations on the rebuilding roster that Khan is currently constructing:

Khan definitely adheres to the Tomlin philosophy of volunteers, not hostages. He may have actually taken the principle to another level. Whining and complaining will definitely get you noticed, but not in a good way. Requesting a trade will not get you more targets or sympathy from the decision makers. It will not benefit you in upcoming contract negotiations. If anything, those tactics will get you a one way ticket out of town. Diontae Johnson is a Carolina Panther now, and Kenny Pickett is a Philadelphia Eagle. Past accomplishments and draft pedigree apparently doesn’t mean as much as it used to. Best of luck to both players, and thanks for your contributions while wearing the black and gold. Both moves were inevitable, and will hopefully benefit all parties involved.

Speaking of Steeler faces in new places, Mason Rudolph is now a Tennessee Titan. I want to applaud the young man for his professionalism, maturity, and character displayed during extremely challenging circumstances. Rudolph’s tumultuous tenure in Pittsburgh benefited Pickett most of all. Pickett witnessed how Rudolph was treated on the QB depth chart, and wisely decided it was time to move on. Best of luck to Mason Rudolph in all his future endeavors.

Khan has been the epitome of controlled aggression thus far this offseason. Khan realizes where the Steelers are presently in their rebuild, and understands that another offseason focusing on replenishing the overall talent is required. He has resisted the urge to overpay for any position, either in cap space or draft capital. Especially at the QB position. Thanks to Khan’s admirable patience, the Steelers have achieved the unthinkable while totally revamping the position. Former Super Bowl champion QB Russell Wilson was signed to a veteran minimum contract, thanks to the Denver Broncos unintentional generosity. Then Khan patiently waited for the market for former Chicago Bears starting QB Justin Fields to fully reveal itself. Khan’s patience paid off, in a big way. Prior to the Combine, the Bears were rumored to want a second round selection for Fields. In the end, Khan got Fields for a conditional sixth round selection in 2025. The Khan Artist solidified his legacy.

The Steelers have already announced Russell Wilson as the starter. Wilson is the more accomplished player, and logical choice. His vast experience should benefit the Steelers young supporting cast on offense, especially in light of Arthur Smith’s new scheme. However, the Steelers definitely need to figure out what they have in Justin Fields. Wilson is the present, but Fields could prove to be the Steelers future. Fields is over a decade younger than the 36 years old Wilson. Fields is also bigger, stronger, and faster. If a change in scenery and roster stability, plus the invaluable opportunity to learn at the feet of an accomplished peer, can somehow allow Fields to reach his full potential, then it would behoove the Steelers to invest in Fields as the future of the franchise. Arthur Smith needs to install specialty packages in each week’s gameplan to take advantage of Fields’ unique skills.

Omar Khan is pushing my Steelers loyalty to the limits. I am as old-school as they come. I love the Steelers, but I loathe the division rivals. That means any player from the Browns, Bengals, and especially the Ravens. So what does Khan decide to do? He signs one of the Ravens I despise most in free agency: ILB Patrick Queen. Queen always had the ability to push my buttons every huge rivalry game. He was so easy to dislike. Always trash talking, even though the Steelers have dominated the matchup recently. Now I am supposed to root for him all of a sudden. I am just not feeling it at the moment, but I am sure my emotions will change the first time Queen flies across the field to deliver a slobber-knocker hit on a unsuspecting victim. Until then, let me continue to brood in my displeasure.

Newly signed free agent SS DeShon Elliott is a definite upgrade over Keanu Neal. However, he is also a former Raven, but at least he is a few seasons removed. If Elliott can stay relatively healthy, he should bring some impressive physicality to the position, plus allow Minkah Fitzpatrick to go back to what he does best; ball-hawking. In all honesty, I would still love to see the Steelers sign Terrell Edmunds to a mutually beneficial contract. Some dreams never die.

Now I would like to take a second to acknowledge a few guys who are no longer with us:

Fare thee well, Mason Cole. You were the ultimate bridge center. You rescued us from the nightmare of Kendrick Green for a season. Then you endured your own nightmare last season. Time for an much-needed upgrade.

Arrivederci, Chukwuma Okorafor. I originally thought you were the Steelers next left tackle when you were drafted. You had solid measurements, and you were light on your feet. However, no matter how hard you tried, you could never find your nasty. Maybe those annoying Patriots fans will bring out the worst in you. They definitely do for me.

Last but not least, I would be remiss if I failed to bid bon voyage to the one and only Diontae Johnson. This farewell is eerily similar to Devin Bush last offseason. I will definitely not miss watching an overpaid receiver run in the freaking wrong direction, fall down prior to contact, or float out of bounds whenever possible. Just not my cup of tea. Hopefully the Panthers fans are more understanding, or at least forgiving.


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