Steelers 2020 offseason tracker: Key dates, free agency scorecard, NFL draft news, latest updates and more

The standard is the standard. While some fans are giving the Pittsburgh Steelers a pass for going 8-8 amidst an injury-marred 2019 season, head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert are doing anything but. Regardless of the circumstances, the Steelers expect to be, at minimum, a playoff team on an annual basis. Despite losing Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Stephon Tuitt for a combined 34 games, the Steelers, largely on the strength of their defense, were 8-5 and on the inside track of the AFC playoffs with three games remaining. But their ongoing injury issues and quality of play at the quarterback position led to three straight losses to close out the season, as the Steelers watched the playoffs from home for a second straight year.

Despite last season’s shortcomings, there were certainly some positives the Steelers have taken with them into the 2020 offseason. T.J. Watt, a former first-round pick, has blossomed into one of the NFL’s premier defensive players. Defensive teammates Joe Haden, Cam Heyward, and Joe Haden joined him in the Pro Bowl, along with 2019 trade acquisition Minkah Fitzpatrick, a former first-round pick who was one of the major reasons why the Steelers went 7-1 during an eight-game stretch.

While Pittsburgh’s defense developed into one of the league’s most formidable units, the Steelers’ offense struggled without Roethlisberger, who is expected to be back for the start of offseason workouts after undergoing elbow surgery last September. The Steelers are also confident that Conner and Smith-Schuster, 2018 Pro Bowlers who are entering the final year of their rookie contracts, will rebound after rocky 2019 seasons. Pittsburgh is also expecting more contributions from receiver James Washington, receiver/All-Pro return specialist Diontae Johnson, and running back Benny Snell. The offensive line, while getting older, is still one of the league’s better units, led by perennial Pro Bowlers Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro. Pittsburgh’s special teams received a big boost in 2019, as Chris Boswell returned to Pro Bowl form following his disastrous 2018 season.

Throughout this offseason, we will update this story to provide the most up-to-date information regarding the Steelers. Let’s kick things off by looking at the key upcoming dates on Pittsburgh’s schedule.

Key upcoming dates

  • March 10: The Steelers have until this date to designate or franchise tag a player. The only Steeler that will likely be tagged this year is OLB Bud Dupree, who is coming off a career year that saw him record 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. It would cost the Steelers about $16.266 million to tag Dupree.
  • March 16: Pittsburgh will be permitted to begin speaking with the agents of upcoming unrestricted free agents. While they’re not expected to make a big splash in free agency, the Steelers are expected to be in the market for a veteran receiver and possibly a running back. Inside linebacker, tight end and a backup safety may also be on Pittsburgh’s free agent wish list.
  • March 18: The official start of the league’s new year/free agency will kickoff on this day at 4 p.m. ET. While reports will begin to come in before this date, no signings will be official until the 4 p.m. start of the new league year.
  • March 29 through April 1: The NFL’s Annual League Meeting in Palm Beach, Florida takes place. This is usually when fans get to hear from head coach Mike Tomlin and Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, who will likely offer a summary of Pittsburgh’s offseason to this point as well as provide some thoughts on the upcoming draft.
  • Mid-April: The Steelers will receive their 2020 regular season schedule. The Steelers’ home schedule will include the Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Broncos, Texans, Colts, Eagles, and Redskins. Pittsburgh’s road schedule will include games against the Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Bills, Cowboys, Jaguars, Giants and Titans.
  • April 23-25: Pittsburgh will take part in the 2020 NFL draft. The Steelers currently have five picks in the draft and won’t be on the clock until the 50th overall pick.
  • May 1-4: Teams may elect to hold their three-day rookie minicamp.

*The Steelers will also hold OTAs and one mandatory minicamp during several weeks in June followed by a roughly six-week break in the action before the start of training camp in late July. Final dates to be determined.

Free agent scorecard

Restricted free agents 

Matt Feiler

Mike Hilton

L.T. Walton

Jordan Dangerfield

Zach Banner

Lavon Hooks (exclusive restricted free agent)

Feiler and Hilton are the two big names to keep an eye on here. After making 10 starts in 2017, Feiler became a full-time starter at right tackle last season, his fourth with the Steelers. In his third full season with the Steelers, Hilton, a defensive back, set career highs in starts (eight), tackles (65) and passes defensed (11). And while they aren’t starters, the Steelers are quite fond of Banner and Hooks, who each made significant contributions last season.

*Restricted free agents will have to be tendered by the Steelers in order for them to be on the roster in 2020. The Steelers can assign a number of different tenders on their restricted free agents (original round tender, second-round tender, first-round tender, etc). Each tender comes with a higher 2020 salary. Those numbers have not yet been determined by the NFL.

Unrestricted in-house free agents

B.J. Finney

Artie Burns

Bud Dupree

Sean Davis

Javon Hargrave

Nick Vannett

Cameron Canaday 

Tyler Matakevich

Keeping Dupree in the fold for 2020 is among the team’s top offseason priorities. Look for the Steelers to try to sign Dupree to a new deal, but if they can’t, he will most likely play the 2020 season under the franchise tag. If the two sides can’t come to terms on a long-term deal by March 10, Dupree will be franchise tagged, which would give the two sides until 4 p.m. on July 15 to come to terms on a new contract.

The team’s next in-house free agent priority is Hargrave, one of four members of Pittsburgh’s 2016 draft class that are slated to become free agents. A former third-round pick, Hargrave, the team’s starting DT since his rookie season, has recorded 10.5 sacks, 109 tackles, 42 tackles for loss, and 14 quarterback hits over the past two seasons. If the Steelers are forced to use their franchise tag on Dupree, and if they can’t sign Hargrave to a long-term deal by March 18, Hargrave should be one of the most sought after defensive tackles in free agency.

Another player to keep an eye on is Finney, a former undrafted rookie out of Kansas State that has made 13 starts over the past four years. Finney, a versatile player who has started at several positions on Pittsburgh’s offensive line, should receive some attention if he enters free agency.

Club option

Vance McDonald

The Steelers are not expected to keep McDonald at his current cap hit, which is currently $7,127,500. Whatever happens with McDonald will likely determine whether or not the Steelers will go after a veteran tight end in free agency.

Unrestricted free agent signings from other teams


Free agents signings for players cut by other teams


*It’s important to differentiate between the players signed as unrestricted free agents and those signed after being cut by another team. This is true because players who are signed after being released by another team do not count in the compensatory draft pick formula for the team who signs them.

2020 NFL Draft picks 

  • Round 1: None
  • Round 2: Pittsburgh
  • Round 3: None
  • Round 4: Pittsburgh
  • Round 5: None
  • Round 6: Pittsburgh
  • Round 7: Pittsburgh

*The Steelers are projected to receive a third-round compensatory draft pick (for losing Le’Veon Bell in free agency 2019). That has not been announced yet.

Rumors, reports and updates

Roethlisberger makes encouraging step in recovery

Sunday, Feb. 23: Ben Roethlisberger received some good news recently after visiting with his doctors in California. Roethlisberger, who underwent season-ending elbow surgery just two weeks into the 2019 season, was cleared to begin throwing over the weekend for the first time since sustaining the injury.

“It was a good report,” Roethlisberger told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I got to bypass the tennis ball throwing for a month and go right to the football. Still going to be about 2.5-3 months until I get total clearance from doc but we are doing good!”

Fans and teammates celebrated on social media upon seeing a video of Big Ben throwing a football over the weekend. The video and Roethlisberger’s positive meeting with his doctors confirms the Steelers’ belief that Big Ben will be ready when Pittsburgh begins offseason workouts in May. Mike Tomlin, during a recent appearance on “First Take,” made it clear that he expects Roethlisberger to be the Steelers’ starting quarterback when the team begins the 2020 regular season.

“This guy is the ultimate competitor,” Tomlin said of Roethlisberger. “He’s dropped the gauntlet down. He made the statement that he’s coming back, and I look forward to watching him answer that challenge.”

Tuesday, Feb. 25: A little over a week after Mike Tomlin alluded to the fact that the Steelers are not interested in an on-field reunion with Antonio Brown, general manager Kevin Colbert reinforced the team’s current position regarding Brown, who is looking to sign with someone after missing all but one game last season.

“We’re always going to be concerned about Antonio Brown, the person,” Colbert said. “We have moved on from Antonio Brown, and Coach Tomlin addressed that the last time he spoke with the media. We’re worried about Antonio Brown, the person. He will always be a Steeler in that regard, but in that regard only.”   

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