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Aaron Donald ‘Flirted’ with Idea of Playing for Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Aaron Donald flirted with Donald potentially coming home to play for the team he grew up watching.



Aaron Donald Steelers
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 23: Los Angeles Rams Defensive Lineman Aaron Donald (99) watches the action on the field during the NFC Divisional game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on January 23, 2022 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

After a decorated 10-year career that included eight first-team All-Pros, 10 Pro Bowls, a Super Bowl championship, three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald announced his retirement two weeks ago. But the Pittsburgh native who grew up a Steelers fan never got to play for his hometown team.

And of course, Donald’s next step is Canton. He’s a shoo-in as a first-ballot selection for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2029. But he shared that early in his career, he did flirt with the idea of joining the Steelers, which could have changed the franchise’s course.

“Probably my third year in the league, we wasn’t a good team and we started talking about contract stuff,” Donald said on the Green Light Podcast with Chris Long. “And I didn’t know if I was going to stay with the Rams. Because I wanted to win, be with a winning team, so I flirted with the idea a little bit, and maybe I could go home and play for the Steelers.”

After his retirement, Donald addressed the possibility if he would ever come out of retirement and play for his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers. Before carving out a Hall of Fame career with the Rams, Donald starred at Penn Hills and Pitt. The notion that he might conclude his career in the Black and Gold has frequently been brought up over the last few years, but Donald doesn’t want to play for another coach other than Sean McVay.

“I love the Rams. I don’t want to retire nowhere else but the Rams. I told Sean when he first got there, as long as you’re the head coach, I wanna continue to be here. I wouldn’t want to be playing for no other coach than that guy,” Donald said.

There was a ton of speculation in the 2023 offseason that Donald could finish his career with the Steelers via a trade.

The Rams were coming off a 5-12 Super Bowl hangover season, and there was a perception that they were in a rebuild. The notion was that by offloading Donald they would recoup some of the draft picks they gave away in order to build a Super Bowl team in 2021. The Steelers were considered an ideal landing spot solely because of Donald’s Pittsburgh roots, and the fact that he trains at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex during the offseason with Dee Brown of Evolve 2Tenths Speed & Agility.

However, in August, former NFL insider Peter King of NBC Sports discredited the speculation by stating that “Donald does not have a burning desire to play for his hometown team.” And sure enough, during an interview with the L.A. media in October prior to the Steelers-Rams game, Donald pretty much echoed that statement.