Russell Wilson [608x342]
Russell Wilson [608x342] (Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

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NFL free agency is officially underway, and we're keeping track of every major signing, trade and release of the 2024 offseason, with analysis from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our experts. The new league year began March 13 at 4 p.m. ET, and free agent signings can now become official. The first round of the 2024 NFL draft begins April 25 on ESPN.

Here's a breakdown of every 2024 NFL free agent signing by the Pittsburgh Steelers and how each will impact the upcoming season:

Russell Wilson, QB

Wilson will sign a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum, which is $1.2 million.

What it means: Wilson will get a chance to resurrect his career, while the Steelers have an immediate upgrade at the position. Though there will still be a quarterback competition for the starting job, signing Wilson signals the Steelers don't have the "full faith" in Kenny Pickett that general manager Omar Khan expressed less than two weeks ago.

What's the risk: Financially, none. But make no mistake, this signing is a big gamble. If Wilson wins the job, the Steelers will lose an opportunity to evaluate their 2022 first-round pick outside of a Matt Canada offense -- and with the decision on Pickett's fifth-year option due in May of 2025, time is of the essence in that evaluation. And at nearly 36 years old, Wilson isn't a long-term solution at the position. If anything, his signing could restart the process of finding the team's next franchise quarterback -- something that hasn't been easy since Ben Roethlisberger's retirement.

Cameron Johnston, P

Johnston will join the Steelers after three seasons in Houston.

What it means: The Steelers released punter Pressley Harvin prior to the start of free agency, creating an obvious need at the position. A Ray Guy Award winner in college, Harvin was inconsistent in three seasons in Pittsburgh, averaging 43.7 yards per punt over his career. Johnston, meanwhile, has a 47.3 career average over six seasons. Most recently with the Texans, Johnston led the league with 88 punts for 4,108 yards in 2021.

What's the risk: There's not one. The Steelers had a need at the position, and Johnston is a solid veteran option who offers a clear upgrade from Harvin.

Patrick Queen, LB

Queen will sign a 3-year, $41 million deal

What it means: Now this is a splashy move. The Steelers did the anti-Steeler thing and secured the top inside linebacker free agent with a three-year, $41 million deal -- not only solidifying the middle of their defense, but taking one of their intra-division rivals' best players to do it. Restocking the inside linebacker corps was a priority this free agency after serious injuries -- ones without a clear recovery timeline -- decimated the position. Queen is a complete linebacker and excels in coverage and run defense, and he's especially necessary to compete in a division that just added RB Derrick Henry.

What's the risk: There's not much of one. This signing has all the upside and little downside. Sure, there's a three-year commitment to Queen, but he's started 17 games each of the last three seasons and 16 in his rookie year. And according to NFL Next Gen Stats, he led all linebackers with 20 quick pressures last season, and generated a 25.5% pressure rate -- sixth-highest among all linebackers. Make no mistake: this is a big win for Pittsburgh.

Justin Fields, QB

Obtained in a trade with the Bears, Fields is on his rookie contract through 2024 with a fifth-year option decision due for the Steelers on May 2

What it means: Added after Kenny Pickett told the team he preferred to get a fresh start once Russell Wilson agreed to terms, Fields is a wild card with a high ceiling. Coach Mike Tomlin really liked Fields in the pre-draft process, and OC Arthur Smith also praised him for his versatility as a runner prior to Atlanta's game against the Chicago Bears last season. Fields had a rocky three-year stint in Chicago with his improbable splash plays largely overshadowing a pattern of inconsistent play. But the Steelers landed Fields without giving up much, and in a best-case scenario, hope Fields can learn from Wilson and flourish in Smith's play-action heavy system.

What's the risk: GM Omar Khan acquired the Bears' 2021 first-round pick for a sixth-round pick that can upgrade to a fourth if Fields plays more than 51% of snaps in 2024. That's a pretty low-risk acquisition for a former first-rounder. But the team has until May 2 to decide on Fields' fifth-year option -- something that appears unlikely with that figure checking in at more than $25 million. With Wilson starting out in "pole position" for the quarterback competition, there's a realistic chance the team has to decide on Fields' future in Pittsburgh without seeing a large body of work. The Steelers could consider something similar to Green Bay's approach with Jordan Love where the team gave Love a one-year contract extension with a lower base salary than the fifth-year option to give the quarterback security and the team flexibility.

Donte Jackson, CB

Jackson is under contract through the 2024 season

What it means: The Steelers shipped their most experienced receiver and longest-tenured offensive player in Diontae Johnson along with a seventh-round pick to acquire Jackson and a sixth-round pick from the Panthers. That signals two things: the Steelers were willing to do whatever it took to move Johnson, who while a top-tier route runner was also a frustrating player at times with his streaky production and lapses in effort, and also that the team prioritized adding a veteran corner to help Joey Porter Jr.

What's the risk: With a cap hit of more than $10 million and just one year left on his contract, Jackson isn't cheap or a guaranteed long-term solution. He had a season-ending Achilles injury in 2022, but rebounded to start 16 games in 2023. The Panthers, though, were already planning to move on from Jackson, and even so, the Steelers gave up one of their best trade assets to net him and a late-round pick. Johnson could've garnered a bigger haul from other teams, but the Steelers seemed determined to keep him out of the AFC. And while Jackson fills a position of need, the Steelers will still likely target adding at least one more cornerback to the group.

Miles Killebrew, S

Killebrew re-signed with Pittsburgh, inking a two-year, $6.5 million deal

What it means: The Steelers keep one of their own in re-signing the special teams ace, who earned his first Pro Bowl nod last season after eight years in the league. Killebrew has three blocked punts with the Steelers since signing with the team in 2021 and has been a leader on the unit. The Steelers didn't have many high-priority free agents hitting the market, but Killebrew was among their most important pieces to bring back.

What's the risk: None. It's a smart signing by the Steelers to keep a player who leads on and off the field.

DeShon Elliott, S

Elliott, formerly with the Dolphins, signed a two-year deal

What it means: The Steelers have an All-Pro safety in Minkah Fitzpatrick, but the rest of the position is pretty thin, especially after the release of veteran Keanu Neal. The position also got demolished by injuries throughout the season, but the team found depth in Trenton Thompson and once-retired safety Eric Rowe. Adding Elliott, a veteran with starting experience, gives the team quality depth and flexibility, but they also likely need to keep adding to the secondary.

What's the risk: The Steelers signed Damontae Kazee to a similar deal a year ago. It's an inexpensive signing at a position of need, and Elliott is coming off a season with an interception and 82 tackles. Plus, as a versatile defender, Elliott can play snaps at free safety, strong safety and slot, if needed. It's a low-risk signing.

Montravius Adams, DT

Adams signed a two-year deal to remain in Pittsburgh

What it means: Adams has been a solid depth piece for the Steelers since signing with the team midway through the 2021 season following a release from the New Orleans Saints. Adams' playing time diminished in 2023 with the development of rookie Keeanu Benton and an ankle injury, and Benton eventually ended the season as the starter. But with the defensive line unit aging and always dealing with attrition, having depth is valuable.

What's the risk: Benton made big strides as a rookie and projects as the starting nose tackle in his second season, meaning Adams is coming back largely to be a versatile depth piece. There's not a significant risk here as long as the team isn't committing significant money to the 2017 third-round pick.

Van Jefferson, WR

The Steelers signed the former Falcon and Ram to a one-year deal

What it means: With the Steelers moving on from two wide receivers from the 2023 roster, Jefferson's signing is all about depth. Following new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith from Atlanta, Jefferson arrives in Pittsburgh a couple years removed from winning the Super Bowl with the L.A. Rams. In that Super Bowl-winning season, Jefferson recorded a career-best 802 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

What's the risk: Adding Jefferson on a one-year deal as a depth piece to fill a role is a smart and safe move -- especially since his cap hit will likely be much less than Allen Robinson II's $12 million hit prior to his release.

Quez Watkins, WR

The former Eagle Watkins signed a one-year deal

What it means: The Steelers keep adding depth wide receivers in an effort to fill out a room down several contributors after free agency. Watkins, though, isn't a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver, meaning the Steelers are still likely targeting a top-flight receiver in the draft later this month. A speedy threat, Watkins was the No. 3 receiver in Philadelphia behind A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. He'll likely vie with Calvin Austin III and Van Jefferson for the same title in Pittsburgh - plus whoever the team adds in the draft.

What's the risk: Much of Watkins time in Philadelphia was overshadowed by drops and fumbles, and he'll have to clean that up to get on - and stay on -- the field in Pittsburgh. A 2020 sixth-round pick, Watkins is still relatively early on in his career and a good wide receivers coach and system could clean up those mistakes and make him a good value signing.

Cordarrelle Patterson, KR

The former Falcon Patterson signed a two-year deal

What it means: Hours after the league approved changes to the kickoff rules meant to increase the number of kickoffs, the Steelers signed one of the most prolific returners in the league. Patterson, 33, has nine career kickoffs returned for touchdowns, and he's been voted first-team All-Pro four times. As a running back, Patterson is also familiar with new Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith after spending the last three seasons in Atlanta.

What's the risk: There's not much risk with this signing. Even before the rule changes, the Steelers lacked a consistent returner over the last couple of seasons. Patterson is an instant boost to that position, and he adds another wrinkle of versatility in the offense. Patterson is an older player and could lose some speed with age, but he was still the best available returner on the market and fills a hole for the Steelers.

Dean Lowry, DT

The former Viking Patterson signed a two-year deal

What it means: Lowry, selected by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, is more depth on a defensive line that dealt with several injuries last season. Cameron Heyward missed significant time a year ago with a groin injury, but Mike Tomlin expects him to be ready by training camp. Keeanu Benton stepped in as a rookie in Heyward's absence, but adding more depth at an injury-prone position is never a bad thing.

What's the risk: At nearly 30 years old, Lowry isn't much younger than the 34-year-old Heyward. Lowry is also coming off a season-ending torn pectoral, an injury that happened after he returned from a groin injury. Prior to his injury, Lowry started four of nine games in a one-year stint with the Minnesota Vikings. Lowry can be quality depth -- but only if he can stay healthy.

Kyle Allen, QB

The veteran backup Allen signed a one-year deal

What it means: The Steelers added more low-risk depth to their quarterback by signing Allen, minimizing the need to draft a quarterback in a mid-to-late round later this month. The team likes to have three quarterbacks in the regular season between the active roster and practice squad, but they could still add a fourth camp arm prior to July's training camp. A journeyman, Allen has 19 starts and 30 appearances since starting out with the Carolina Panthers in 2018.

What's the risk: There's no real risk with this signing, especially considering the room also has Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. But Allen is an experienced backup and inexpensive.