The Pittsburgh Steelers have found their new franchise quarterback, but a hypothetical offseason trade scenario saw them acquiring one of the top quarterbacks in the game.
According to Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report, a dream trade scenario would have seen the Steelers acquire eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson. Instead, the longtime Seattle Seahawks quarterback would end up being traded to the Denver Broncos for two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick and several players at the beginning of the offseason.
While it’s true Wilson held a no-trade clause and there was never significant interest between both sides, Knox argues that the veteran quarterback would have kept the Steelers as the class of the AFC North — rather than facing a potential rebuild.
“However, longtime starter Ben Roethlisberger has retired, and the Steelers aren’t going to feel quite the same without him,” says Knox. “The whole AFC North may sense a scent of opportunity in the post-Roethlisberger era, but how would those teams feel if Russell Wilson had joined Pittsburgh instead of the Denver Broncos?
Pittsburgh may still win this season, but it would likely be a Super Bowl contender with Wilson.”
It’s also worth mentioning that the idea of Wilson being traded to the Steelers may not be as far-fetched as one believes.
“Let’s be honest, though, it wouldn’t benefit Wilson, Denver or Seattle to let slip that other teams were under consideration, so we may never know if Wilson would have waived his no-trade clause for anyone else,” says Knox.
Wilson Would Have Been Major Upgrade for Steelers
The Steelers have been the epitome of a winning franchise during the Ben Roethlisberger era. Although they haven’t won a Super Bowl since the 2008 season, the Steelers haven’t had a losing campaign since Mike Tomlin stepped in as head coach in 2007. Furthermore, the franchise has two Super Bowl wins, three Super Bowl appearances, 12 playoff appearances and eight division titles since Roethlisberger entered the league back in 2004.
Even with a hobbled Roethlisberger on his last legs in 2021, the Steelers made it to the postseason. Just imagine what the Steelers could do with Wilson entering the 2022 season.
Entering the 2022 season, Pittsburgh will enter the year with rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett and veterans Mason Rudolph and Mitch Trubisky battling it out for the starting job. And while the winner of that quarterback competition may end up performing fairly well, neither of those quarterbacks have the ceiling of Wilson.
Even during a down season in 2021, Wilson still posted a better offensive grade than Trubisky and Rudolph’s prior stints as starters. According to Pro Football Focus, the 33-year-old posted a 73.9 offensive grade during the 2021 season. Prior to 2021, Wilson posted a 90.3 offensive grade in 2020 and a 91.1 rating during the 2019 season.
By comparison, Trubisky’s highest-posted offensive grade in a single season was 66.4 during the 2017 season, while Rudolph posted a 53.5 offensive grade during his eight-game stint as starter in 2019.
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Why Wilson Trade to Steelers Didn’t Happen
While the idea of Wilson being traded to the Steelers seems like a perfect scenario, the fact that the Broncos were willing to trade away several top draft picks for Wilson likely would have deterred the Steelers from making a possible move for the veteran quarterback.
The scenario of the Steelers entering the offseason with Wilson at quarterback over an unproven quarterback is certainly an appealing one, but Pittsburgh has never been big on trading draft capital.
During Kevin Colbert’s 22-year tenure with the Steelers, they’ve traded a first-round pick for a player just once, in a deal for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick back in 2019.
As unlikely as it would have been, the idea of Wilson playing in Pittsburgh would have kept the Steelers as major contenders entering 2022.