The Pittsburgh Steelers are expecting Ben Roethlisberger to retire this offseason. Assuming that happens, they will need to find a new franchise quarterback for the first time in 18 years. There are plenty of options available to them, but we've narrowed the focus to just four realistic possibilities.
The Steelers have more cap room than in previous years, and currently look to have around $43 million to use. Given that kind of space, landing someone like Russell Wilson is certainly possible.
It feels like Wilson is done in Seattle and he's discussed how he'll explore his options this offseason. He floated the possibility of being traded last summer before returning to the fold for the 2021 season. Given that the Seahawks are going nowhere fast and looking at a rebuild, he'll probably want out.
The Steelers have the pieces in place to continue making consistent postseason runs. Mike Tomlin is an outstanding coach, Wilson would be flanked by a young stud running back in Najee Harris, solid receivers in JuJu Smith-Schuster (who is likely to return), Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson and a stud tight end in Pat Freiermuth. Pittsburgh also has an offensive line that only allowed 38 sacks this season.
There is a fit here if Wilson wants to make it happen and the Steelers are willing to part with draft capital. The Seahawks don't have a first-round pick thanks to the disastrous Jamal Adams trade, and the Steelers are set to pick 20th.
Jameis Winston and the Steelers were connected to each other during the 2020 offseason, but Pittsburgh never actually offered him a contract. While he's coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered in Week 8, he should be good to go for training camp. He's also a free agent and wouldn't cost anything in a trade.
Winston looked really good in seven games with the Saints in 2021. He only completed 59 percent of his passes, but threw for 1,170 yards, with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating of 102.8 would have ranked seventh in the NFL and his QBR of 64.3 would have ranked fourth.
Coming off a major injury, the Steelers could likely get Winston pretty cheap. They'll have to pay more than the $5.5 million the Saints paid him for one season, but he certainly wouldn't break the bank.
This is where things get interesting. Aaron Rodgers just wrapped up what will likely be his second consecutive MVP season and few believe he'll be returning to the Green Bay Packers in 2022. A trade is almost certain and the Steelers are likely to be an attractive destination.
Pittsburgh has the kind of weapons and offensive line Rodgers will want, and it's a team with the cap flexibility to add a solid piece or two. Rodgers also clearly likes and respects Tomlin. They would almost certainly work well together.
Rodgers is still at the top of his game despite being 38. The success he's had in Green Bay could easily translate to Pittsburgh. Especially if the Steelers let him run whatever offense he wants.
It would take a solid package of draft picks and possibly some players to get a deal done with the Packers. But if Rodgers pushes hard for a move to Pittsburgh, there won't be much Green Bay can do.
This would be a bit of a feel-good story, as the star quarterback from Pitt would land with the Steelers at No. 20. Pickett is one of the top signal-callers in the 2022 draft, but he could easily be on the board when Pittsburgh is on the clock.
Pickett had a breakout year in 2021, setting career-highs in completion percentage (67.2), passing yards (4,319), touchdowns (42), yards per attempt (8.7) and passer rating (165.3). His QBR of 81.2 also ranked ninth in college football. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, he has ideal size for the position, is a good athlete who can run a bit, has solid arm strength and is accurate at all three levels.
Pickett makes a lot of sense for the Steelers, but it would feel a bit like a playoff team hitting the reset button to build with a young quarterback. Still, there are some huge advantages to this move, as Pittsburgh could use its cap space to plug other holes while its quarterback was on a rookie contract.