‘Championship Caliber’ QB Could Be Available for Steelers ‘Fairly Quickly’

Mike Tomlin Russell Wilson

Getty NFL Network's Bucky Brooks argued that the Pittsburgh Steelers are a fit for quarterback Russell Wilson because of head coach Mike Tomlin.

This offseason may be getting a little repetitive for followers of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Through the second half of January and all of February, pundits connected the team to numerous quarterbacks. The most popular choices have been Russell Wilson and Justin Fields.

If the Steelers are interested in either, though, they first have to see if those quarterback’s current organizations are ready to depart with them.

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton implied while speaking to the media on February 27 that their decision on Wilson will happen sooner rather than later.

“We go through the combine week here. Next week, I think Tuesday, Wednesday, we’ll be in meetings with ownership. And so I expect that we’re going to know fairly quickly,” Payton told reporters at the NFL combine on February 27, via Pro Football Talk’s Myles Simmons. “There’s a couple of factors here. Obviously, the cap projections came out. We’re further down the road with the draft class, obviously the pro free agents.

“So, I would anticipate it within the next two weeks.”

If he does become available, NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks projected Wilson to return to the “championship-caliber” play he displayed earlier in his career if he joined the Steelers.

“He can be a championship-caliber quarterback on the right team. But it’s not going to be because of him,” Brooks said. “It will be because he is driving the bus. He’s playing a managerial role. Russell Wilson has value. He’s started in this league for a long time. He’s played at a high level.

“And even though the last two years haven’t been what we thought, last year wasn’t a complete failure for him.”

After a disastrous 2022 season, Wilson didn’t bounce back to being a Pro Bowl-level quarterback last fall. But he did throw 26 touchdowns versus only 8 interceptions with a 66.4% completion percentage.

Bucky Brooks Likes Potential Russell Wilson-Steelers Union Because of Mike Tomlin

Brooks clearly set realistic expectations for Wilson, who turned 35 in November. He’s not an All-Pro caliber quarterback anymore, but Wilson can still be successful in the right offense.

Brooks identified the Steelers as a great fit because of head coach Mike Tomlin.

“I think it’s about going to the right team with the right structure in place and the right coach that will kind of protect Russell Wilson against himself,” Brooks said. “Going to the Pittsburgh Steelers where Mike Tomlin is obviously the force. He can take some of that heat off of Russell Wilson.”

Wilson has been a big disappointment for the Broncos the last two seasons. In 30 games with Denver, Wilson has averaged just 7.1 yards per pass with 42 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. The Broncos also went 11-19 with Wilson as their starter.

Over the past three seasons, Wilson has posted a 17-27 record as an NFL starting quarterback.

Tomlin, though, has never posted a losing NFL season. With pedestrian quarterback statistics for most of 2023, the Steelers still won 10 games and clinched a playoff spot.

Furthermore, if the Broncos release Wilson, it’s possible the Steelers could sign him for the league minimum. That obviously would make Wilson a very attractive target.

“As it stands, scheduled to make $39 million fully guaranteed this year, and there are offsets in the contract,” ESPN’s Dan Graziano said. “What that means is if the Broncos cut him, as we expect that they will, and he goes and signs somewhere else, anything he signs for just goes back to the Broncos, up to $39 million.

“The fact of the matter is, you can get Russell Wilson to play for a minimum salary this year.”

Paying Wilson a minimum salary would allow the Steelers to dedicate more of their salary cap space to supporting the veteran quarterback with more offensive pieces or additions on defense.

Bears Moving ‘As Quickly As Possible’ on Potential Justin Fields Trade

Adding Wilson is just one of many possible scenarios for the Steelers at quarterback. Other than signing Wilson, trading for Fields has been another popular Pittsburgh rumor.

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles shared with reporters that they are still determining what to do with Fields this offseason.

“It just depends on what opportunities pop up,” Poles told the media at the NFL combine. “I will say this: If we go down that road, I wanna do right by Justin as well. No one wants to live in gray. I know that’s uncomfortable. I wouldn’t wanna be in that situation either.

“So we’ll gather the information. We’ll move as quickly as possible. We’re not gonna be in a rush. And (we’ll) see what presents itself and what’s best for the organization.”

The Bears hold the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL draft. They could trade Fields for additional draft capital and then grab their preferred quarterback option with the top selection this spring.

Fields threw 16 touchdowns and had 9 interceptions while averaging 6.9 yards per pass in 2023. He has posted a 10-28 record as an NFL starter in his three-year career.

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