Keanu Neal will be part of a fourth team in four seasons. Per his agency, the former first-round pick is signing a two-year deal with the Steelers (Twitter link). Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was the first to report Neal was on the verge of signing with Pittsburgh (Twitter link).
The five-year Falcons starter has bounced to the Cowboys and Buccaneers since his Atlanta run ended after the 2020 season. Going into his age-28 season, Neal will soon have a chance to make his mark in the AFC. Neal, a former No. 17 overall pick, met with the Eagles recently. But Philly ended up signing former Steelers first-round pick Terrell Edmunds.
During an offseason in which they also added versatile veteran Logan Ryan, the Bucs added Neal on a one-year deal worth the league minimum. He played all 18 Tampa Bay games, starting eight, and finished with 63 tackles (two for loss), an interception and four pass deflections. Neal added a career-high five QB hits.
The Cowboys used Neal more at linebacker in 2021, after he finished with three 100-plus-tackle seasons with the Falcons. Aligned more at safety with the Bucs, Neal ranked 70th at the position (in the view of Pro Football Focus). PFF, which did not like Neal’s linebacker work in Dallas, did rank him as a top-12 pass rusher (among safeties) in Tampa.
In Atlanta, Neal started 48 games and earned a Pro Bowl nod as an alternate in 2017. In his 2020 Falcons contract year, the former Florida Gator registered nine tackles for loss. Despite high tackle numbers, Neal has been unable to parlay his run as a Falcons starter — a stretch that included a Super Bowl LI outing — into a long-term contract.
Neal will join a Steelers team that has made some changes at linebacker and safety. The Steelers have made some adjustments at the Minkah Fitzpatrick-fronted position group and moved on from both Myles Jack and Devin Bush on their defensive second level. They made an offer to keep Edmunds, The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly notes (subscription required), though it likely was a low-end proposal. The Eagles added Edmunds on a one-year, $2MM deal with just $600K guaranteed. Pittsburgh also reached a two-year agreement to retain Damontae Kazee, who will collect nearly double the guaranteed money Edmunds will. The Steelers gave Kazee a two-year, $6MM deal with $1.75MM guaranteed.
Neal will join Fitzpatrick and Kazee on the Steelers’ back line. His experience as a box defender and in coverage could give Pittsburgh some options.