As the Steelers enter the 2022 season, they’ll likely do so without Ben Roethlisberger, their quarterback over the past 18 years.
To fill the void expected to be left by Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh has three options: draft a quarterback, start holdovers Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins, or trade for or sign a veteran quarterback.
Graff, who covers the Minnesota Vikings for The Athletic, suggested on January 17 that Kirk Cousins of the Vikings, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2019 and who closed the 2021 season by firing general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer, could be a trade target for the Steelers. Cousins, who will be 34 years old and entering his 11th season in the league, has one year left on his current contract.
Why Steelers Are Considered a Top Option
The Steelers – along with the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers – would be the “top options” in a possible trade for the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback, Graff speculated. The reason is that the Steelers are one of just a few teams that could reasonably afford Cousins’ $35 million salary for the 2022 season, he wrote.
“The $35 million cap hit a team would incur by taking on Cousins would be 16.8 percent of the projected $208 million salary cap for 2022,” Graff said. “Very few teams have the space to take on a player with that large of a hit.
“Because of that, the number of teams capable of making a trade for Cousins without the Vikings taking on additional money is slim,” Graff said. “The top options for a Cousins trade seem to be the Broncos, Steelers and Panthers, with a couple of other teams perhaps marginally interested. The Panthers wouldn’t have enough cap space to incur an additional $35 million. The Broncos and Steelers barely would, but that’s without factoring in free agents or a rookie draft class.”
Graff also speculated that Cousins’ trade value would likely be two Day 3 picks in the 2022 NFL draft.
The Steelers are expected to be about $41.9 million under the projected $208.2 million salary cap for each NFL team, according to Over the Cap. That would leave the Steelers about $6.9 million to use elsewhere if they took on Cousins’ $35 million salary.
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Tomlin on Steelers’ Next QB: ‘I’m Excited About That’
As the Steelers prepare for the post-Roethlisberger era, head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t sound too nervous.
In fact, he almost sounds excited by the idea.
During media availability on Tuesday, January 18, Tomlin spoke of the “challenge” of finding the Steelers’ next franchise quarterback.
“I’m excited about that – that challenge,” Tomlin said. “Those of us that are competitors are. It’s a challenge, man. It kind of, it makes you uneasy. But I’ve learned to run to those challenges. I’ve learned to appreciate those challenges. The uncertainty surrounding them is inspiring to me in terms of producing work.”
Tomlin also left open the idea that Rudolph or Haskins could emerge as the starter for the 2022 season.
“Mason and Dwayne have had their moments, but they’ll have to prove that,” Tomlin said. “And not only in the team-development process but through playing itself. They’re guys that start that I wouldn’t characterize as everyday starters. And so they’ll be given an opportunity to establish themselves, and there’s going to be competition. There always is.
“I think that both guys have positioned themselves to fight that fight with what they’ve done from a work standpoint and a professionalism standpoint in 2021,” Tomlin said.