Steelers Trade Draft Pick for Starting Inside Linebacker

Avery Williamson

Jamie Squire/Getty Images Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs runs with the ball against Avery Williamson of the New York Jets during their NFL game at Arrowhead Stadium on November 01, 2020.

On Sunday night the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0) made a trade with the New York Jets (0-8) to acquire inside linebacker Avery Williamson, 28, in exchange for a draft choice.

According to Rich Cimini, who covers the Jets for ESPN NFL Nation, the Jets are getting Pittsburgh’s fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft while the Steelers get Williamson plus New York’s seventh-round pick in the 2022 Draft.

Less than two weeks ago, I profiled Williamson as one of two inside linebackers the Steelers might try to acquire before Tuesday’s trade deadline. It’s a sensible move for both sides, as the Jets shed salary and acquire a future asset while the Steelers bolster a position depleted by injury.

The move suggests that Ulysees Gilbert’s back injury may be a significant/long-term issue, never mind the season-ending ACL injury suffered by second-year LB Devin Bush.

Never mind, too, that backup ILB Robert Spillane has played exceptionally well in Bush’s absence. After Spillane’s first start (against the Tennessee Titans), Cam Heyward moved the second-year man from the back of the plane to first class for the flight from Nashville to Pittsburgh, in part because of a hit that stonewalled Titans running back Derrick Henry near Pittsburgh’s goal line.

During Sunday’s 28-24 win over the Baltimore Ravens, Spillane was even better. He not only had 10 tackles, with one tackle for loss, two passes defensed and a fumble recovery, he also returned a Lamar Jackson interception 33 yards for a touchdown.

About Avery Williamson

Meanwhile, Avery Williamson must be overjoyed with the trade, as he goes from the NFL’s only winless team to the league’s only undefeated team.

Williamson (6-foot-1, 246 pounds) was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft and played four years in Nashville before signing with the Jets as a free agent in 2018.

Williamson came into Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs having started 80 of the 85 games in his NFL career. Not including New York’s 35-9 loss to the Chiefs, he’s had 546 career tackles (350 solo), with 26 tackles for loss, 25 quarterback hits and 14.5 sacks. He’s also had four career interceptions, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

By making the trade on Sunday, there should be enough time for Williamson to pass through all COVID-19 protocols in time for him to be available to play next weekend against the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys fell to 2-6 on Sunday by virtue of losing to the Philadelphia Eagles, 23-9.

Avery Williamson’s Contract Status

According to, Williamson’s base salary for this season is $2,750,000, so the Steelers will pay the remaining (prorated) portion of that amount.

In all likelihood, Williamson will be a half-season rental for the Steelers. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this year and the Steelers figure to be in good shape at the position for next season and beyond, assuming Bush is able to make a successful return from his ACL injury.

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