April 19, 2024

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Steelers meet with QB Russell Wilson before free agency period begins: Source

Steelers meet with QB Russell Wilson before free agency period begins: Source

The Pittsburgh Steelers will meet with recently released Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson before the start of NFL free agency, which opens Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, a league source confirmed to The athlete. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette originally reported on the meeting.

It is unknown how interested the Steelers are in signing the 35-year-old quarterback. At the NFL Scouting Combine last week, general manager Omar Khan said he had “complete confidence” in Kenny Pickett and announced the organization wanted to re-sign free agent Mason Rudolph.

It may seem unlikely that Wilson would sign as the No. 3 quarterback. If the two sides reach an agreement, it would almost certainly be the end of Rudolph's time with the Steelers.

Wilson was traded to the Broncos in 2022 after 10 successful years with the Seattle Seahawks. Wilson struggled in 2022 but rebounded last season to record just over 3,000 yards, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Wilson was benched late in the season and finished with just an 11-19 record in 30 games with Denver.

The Broncos informed Wilson on Monday that they intend to release him in a salary cap move, and that he can immediately look for work elsewhere. Denver signed Wilson to a five-year, $242 million deal after he was traded. With the release, the Broncos are on the hook for $85 million in dead money.

The Broncos owe Wilson $39 million guaranteed in 2024, minus the value of the contract he signs with another team, because of the compensation language in his deal. This amount could reach $1.2 million, which is the league minimum.

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The Steelers only have Pickett under contract for the 2024 season. They typically keep three QBs on the roster and bring four to training camp.

Does Wilson make sense in Pittsburgh?

The Steelers would be going against everything they said in the offseason if they decide to sign Wilson. That might indicate they don't have full confidence in Pickett and don't want to sign Rudolph, even though he had four solid games last season and led the Steelers to a playoff spot.

So no, Wilson is unreasonable, but if we've learned anything from Khan over the past two years as general manager, it's that he's not afraid to take risks. Signing Wilson would be a big leap of faith considering the Steelers are in the market for a long-term plan at the quarterback position, and Pickett and Rudolph offer more than that than Wilson, who has 12 years in the league and will turn 36 in late November.

If the Steelers think they can win now, which is debatable, Wilson might be the better fit even though his strengths aren't what new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is known for (most notably shooting between the numbers). Wilson has better pedigree than the Steelers are currently using and was good in the red zone last year.

If they sign Wilson, they are betting on Pickett and Rudolph and then may have to give a decent extension to a guy who no one knows how much he has left.

Connect the dots

The news of Wilson meeting with the Steelers came out of nowhere, making you wonder why him and why now? There is nothing previously to indicate that Wilson was wanted or even wanted by the Steelers, and perhaps for good reason. But when you consider that news of Wilson meeting with the Steelers could push Rudolph to the extension table faster, and perhaps lower his price while sending a message to Pickett (even if it's a thinly veiled attempt), it makes sense.

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Steelers minority owner Thomas Tull is a business partner with both Wilson and his wife, Ciara. The three, along with Russell Westbrook, are founding partners of Evolution Advisors LLC, a joint venture with Acrisure, which owns the naming rights to Steelers Stadium. Acrisure reportedly signed a 15-year, $150 million deal to acquire the rights to what was known as Heinz Field.

Does this have anything to do with the Steelers' interest in Wilson? Probably not, but the conspiracy theorist in me couldn't help but notice the connections.

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