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Steelers Analysis

Could Steelers Trade for WR with Russell Wilson Connection?

Could the Pittsburgh Steelers trade for a wide receiver with ties to quarterback Russell Wilson like Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett?



Pittsburgh Steelers Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) is introduced before an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a significant need at wide receiver, with three-fifths of the team’s room from 2023 moving on, including starters Diontae Johnson and Allen Robinson II. 

The Steelers have done some bargain hunting, landing receivers Quez Watkins and Van Jefferson on one-year deals, but have not yet added a player that figures to be a starter this season, let alone two.

The club has been heavily scouting players from the 2024 NFL Draft at the position, but general manager Omar Khan and company have shown interest in more experienced options, as well. The Steelers had a meeting scheduled with free agent wide receiver Mike Williams before he signed with the New York Jets. They exchanged contract terms with Cincinnati Bengals free agent Tyler Boyd, and kicked the tires on a potential trade with the San Francisco 49ers for Brandon Aiyuk.

So clearly, they have a high aim when it comes to additions at the position.

But those talks have cooled. Williams is off the board. The Steelers and Boyd appear to be in a long-term standoff over terms, with one report saying the “ship has sailed” on a homecoming for the Clairton native and Pitt product. The 49ers have put their feet in the ground and said they’re not trading Aiyuk.

It’s clear the Steelers wanted to add a receiver before the draft, in addition to being interested in players in the draft. So with the draft just two weeks away and that pre-draft addition looking unlikely, what will they do instead?

Well, they can still add a player after the draft, but the available pool of talent won’t be expected to grow by much. There may be some players released or available for trade later in the offseason, but that’s a long wait and not a sure thing.

There is one other area where players that are not available right now may be available later in the offseason. For salary cap purposes, transactions that happen after June 1 are dealt with very differently than ones that happen before. Dead money on a post-June 1 deal is spread out over two seasons, while on transactions that happen before June 1, the entire bill is due in the coming season.

When players are released, teams have the option of designating that release as post-June 1, preventing months of awkwardness of a player being technically on one team’s roster, despite his release being inevitable. But that option does not exist for trades. So if there’s a player that a team wouldn’t mind parting with, but could not absorb the entire salary cap hit of their departing dead money in one season, they have to wait until after June 1 to make the move.

At the wide receiver position, there’s one name that comes to mind with an obvious connection to the Steelers: Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Lockett has been with Seattle since 2015, meaning that he spent seven seasons playing with new Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson. Lockett has been a three-time All-Pro as a return man, and has been one of the most consistently productive receivers in the league over the last six seasons. 

Lockett just restructured his deal with the Seahawks this offseason, which would make a pre-June 1 trade costly to Seattle. If they traded Lockett now, that would incur a $27.8 million dead cap hit and cost the Seahawks an additional $8.9 million in cap space on top of what is slated to cost.

But if they waited until after June 1, a Lockett trade would only have a $13.9 million dead cap hit this season, while saving Seattle’s cap in 2024 $5 million in room. To the Steelers, Lockett would be a bargain, with just $4.67 million in guaranteed salary and $340,000 in roster bonuses.

Why would the Seahawks trade Lockett? The team could see the veteran as both expendable and not a big part of their ongoing rebuild. The Seahawks used their first-round pick on Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba in 2023. He had 93 targets and for 628 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. DK Metcalf isn’t going anywhere on the other side. There are only so many touches to go around.

Perhaps as a result, Lockett had his least productive season since 2017, catching 79 of 122 targets for 894 yards and five touchdowns. If the Seahawks want Smith-Njigba’s role to grow, that could eat into more of Lockett’s role. With a strong wide receiver class, the Seahawks could replace his production for a lot less than what he figures to cost over the next two seasons.

What might Lockett cost? That’s a big question. Draft pick returns for wide receivers this offseason have not been impressive, with Buffalo Bills star Stefon Diggs and two late round picks costing the Houston Texans only a 2025 second-rounder. If the trade occurs in June, as the cap considerations seem to suggest it must, that would rule out the Steelers trading a 2024 pick as part of the package. 

Thanks to Omar Khan’s trading frenzy, the Steelers have two extra Day Three draft picks in 2025, so trading a pick for Lockett would not be especially harmful to the team’s continued draft capital.

The Steelers’ inactivity at the wide receiver position, despite showing repeated interest, has been puzzling.  It was reported on Wednesday by Jason La Canfora that the Steelers are still searching for a trade at wide receiver. Their interest in a player like Lockett, that can’t be traded until June 1, could explain why they haven’t made a move yet.