If the Los Angeles Rams are serious about trading all-everything defensive tackle Aaron Donald, then the Pittsburgh Steelers would be foolish to not do everything possible to bring him back to his hometown.
But is such a deal even realistic enough to consider?
Former Steelers outside linebacker Arthur Moats outlined how a deal between the Steelers and Rams to bring the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year back to Pittsburgh could be plausible — but probably not likely.
The biggest obstacle is the salary cap, where the Steelers are functionally over the cap ahead of the 2023 season. Omar Khan does have some salary cap moves that he could make in order to clear more space, but Donald would cost $13.4 million in 2023 and $15 million in 2024 — a steep price to pay for a defense that already has four players making more than $14 million annually.
The Rams could decided to retain some of Donald’s salary as a pre-trade signing bonus, but would they really be willing to do, and what would the Steelers have to offer up in a trade that would make them want to? That’s where the discussion seems to fall apart.
“Are the Rams going to say we’re going to do a fire sale and take on all of AD’s contract while you can get him and be productive?” Moats said on The Arthur Moats Experience with Deke Podcast on Tuesday. “Nah, I just don’t know. … All of these don’t sound realistic.”
The Steelers have already done business with the Rams once this offseason, bringing in wide receiver Alan Robinson II for a swap of seventh-round picks, while the Rams retained salary and the Steelers were able to re-negotiate his contract to lessen the salary cap impact.
It would take a similar move for Donald to come to home to Pittsburgh, but given the quality of the player involved, there would probably be serious competition in the form of other teams interested in his services, which could seriously drive up the asking price.
Donald may like to return to Pittsburgh, and the Steelers would undoubtedly love to add one of the all-time greats along their defensive line, but it doesn’t seem that such a move is likely at this point.