According to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Pittsburgh Steelers have elected not to tender any of their restricted free agents, a group that includes cornerback James Pierre, center/guard J.C. Hassenauer and wide receiver/kick returner Steven Sims.
All three are now unrestricted free agents, as is running back Jeremy McNichols, who was not offered a contract either, as per Alan Saunders of SteelersNow.com.
The team could still try to bring the players back at a lower price than the $2.627 million minimum for a 2023 RFA, which gives a team the right to match any offer sheet signed with another club.
To be sure, it would be a mild surprise if the Steelers didn’t make an attempt to sign at least one or two of the above-named players.
Pierre and Sims Played Significant Roles for the Steelers in 2022
James Pierre, 26, joined the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic in 2020 and made the 53-man roster as a rookie. The 6-foot-2 cornerback has since played in a total of 50 games (with six starts), recording 86 tackles, two interceptions and eight passes defensed.
Steven Sims, who will turn 26 on March 31, spent his first two seasons in the NFL with Washington before catching on with the Steelers in 2021 and appearing in one game. Last season his role expanded considerably after kick returner Gunner Olszewski faltered and Sims took over as the team’s primary return man. Over the course of two years in Pittsburgh, Sims has 14 receptions for 104 yards, along with 19 punt returns for 105 yards and 17 kickoff returns for 434 yards.
J.C. Hassenauer, 27, originally joined the Steelers in 2019 out of Alabama. He made 45 appearances and seven starts from 2020-22, with his playing time coming at both center and guard.
Finally, Jeremy McNichols is a 27-year-old running back that the Steelers signed in training camp last summer. The expectation was that he would compete with Benny Snell Jr. and Jaylen Warren for a backup running back job. But he suffered a serious shoulder injury during a training camp practice and was placed on injured reserve on Aug. 3, 2022.
McNichols is a former 5th-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has played for the 49ers, Colts, Jaguars and Titans. The lion’s share of his NFL experience came with Tennessee in 2020-21, when he had 88 carries for 360 yards and a touchdown over the course of 30 games.
Chargers Release Ex-Steelers OL Matt Feiler
In other transactional news from Wednesday, the Los Angeles Chargers released former Steelers offensive lineman Matt Feiler.
A week ago, The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly anticipated that Feiler would be a cap casualty and predicted a possible “reunion” between Feiler and the Steelers, noting that the Bloosmburg University product is capable of playing all five positions on the offensive line.
Feiler, 30, was entering the last year of a three-year, $21 million contract with the Chargers that he signed in March 2021. He started 40 games for the Steelers from 2017-20 after spending two years on Pittsburgh’s practice squad.
The Steelers have already added an offensive lineman in free agency, namely ‘Nasty’ Nate Herbig, who played for the New York Jets in 2022.