Steelers Pressed to Add ‘Massive Upgrade’, Best Fit QB for Arthur Smith

The media connected several quarterbacks to the Pittsburgh Steelers early this offseason, but that was before the Steelers had an offensive coordinator.

Arthur Smith Russell Wilson

The Steelers have since filled their offensive coordinator position with Arthur Smith on January 30. With Smith now in place, ESPN’s Jeff Saturday argued that Pittsburgh should strongly consider adding quarterback Russell Wilson in free agency.

“Russell Wilson for Arthur Smith would be the best fit and because he wants to play under center,” Saturday said to the rest of the panel on ESPN’s Get Up on February 1. “He wants play action. He’s a veteran quarterback. All the different things.

“Think about Seattle and all those years, the Steelers are very similar. Big, physical receiver outside, little quick one inside, good running game … defense that can win championships. It’s a massive upgrade there.”

Wilson is not a free agent, but the Denver Broncos benched him for the final two games of the 2023 regular season. The Athletic’s Dianna Russini reported on December 27 that Wilson expects the Broncos to release him this offseason.

Steelers Could Sign Russell Wilson for League Minimum

While Saturday’s Seattle versus Pittsburgh idea is a fair comparison, he’s working under the assumption that Wilson is the same quarterback he was when he played for the Seattle Seahawks.

Simply put, he’s not.

During his first season with Denver in 2022, he threw for a career-low 16 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Last season, he had 26 touchdowns and dropped his interception total to 8. However, Wilson averaged a career-low 6.9 yards per attempt.

Wilson turned 35 years old in November. He’s not likely to get any better even if Smith’s offense proves to be the perfect match for him.

But the ESPN panel on Get Up argued Wilson could still be an attractive free agent quarterback for 2024 because of his unique contract situation.

“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.”

It should make no difference to Wilson how he gets $39 million. He’s getting that from the Broncos regardless. So, it would be prudent on his part to agree to take the league minimum from his new team in 2024.

That would allow his new team, perhaps the Steelers, to make as many other free agent moves as possible.

It’s important to keep in mind, though, that the Broncos are off the hook with Wilson after 2024 if they cut him. The Steelers could only get Wilson for the league minimum for one season.

How Does Wilson Fit With the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Saturday had very specific reasons Wilson will fit nicely in Smith’s offense and with the Steelers.

His colleague, ESPN’s Domonique Foxworth, made it more simple.

“I think just about everybody is a fit in Pittsburgh because Mike Tomlin’s personality is consistent with the personality of the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Foxworth said. “You come and you conform, it’s a lot like the Bill Belichick situation where you know when you get there, you know what you’re signing up for.”

On top of that, the Steelers would be getting a proven quarterback on a minimum salary.

“Russell Wilson becomes a lot more attractive when you realize that you’re going to pay him league minimum and you don’t have to ask that much of him,” said Foxworth.

“We talk about building around a cheap quarterback. You don’t have to do it around a rookie, you can do it around a Super Bowl champion.”

Like Ben Roethlisberger, Wilson won the Super Bowl in his second season, which was 2013. He led the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl in 2014.

Wilson registered a 65% completion percentage and averaged 7.8 yards per attempt with 292 touchdowns and 87 interceptions in 10 seasons with Seattle. In two seasons with the Broncos, Wilson has posted a 63.3% completion percentage and averaged 7.1 yards per pass with 42 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

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