The Steelers seem to be connected to every name that gets thrown around the market. That’s all fine and dandy, it comes with the speculation season. But the latest name is not just another name, this time it is superstar defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who has had some trade rumors surrounding his name in recent weeks.
That came after Michael Lombardi speculated it could be something on the Pat McAfee Show, and for that reason, there is no real substance here. Maybe Lombardi has heard some whispers as a former NFL front office member that this could be something that happens. But in reality, there’s nothing concrete yet that says the Rams are even interested in trading Donald. So, I think we should get that out of the way just right out of the way.
However, let’s say there is something here. Could Pittsburgh actually acquire Donald? There’s a few things working against the Steelers here. For one, the cap hits from Donald’s contract are astronomical. But it is only a two-year deal so this does not run into the window where the Steelers will look to potentially pay some younger players like Kenny Pickett and George Pickens, if you look that far ahead.
But the point where I really get hung up on this happening is twofold. For one, anytime a guy like Donald becomes available, the cost is astronomical. Big contract or not, he is still a dominant interior lineman. This will cost multiple first round picks and likely players, too. Independent of anything else, maybe the Steelers would be interested in doing that. They have shown a willingness in recent years to be a bit more liberal with moving up the board, trading away picks, and other things.
However, where I get into more questions is where from here you consider too much spending on defense. If you make this move right now, Alex Highsmith is likely gone. The team already has three big contracts tied up defensively, Donald would be a fourth. Now, if you view that as a worthy trade off for long term gain, maybe you make that move. But it feels a bit tenuous right now when the team is building out a young offense that will need more support.
Listen, Donald is an elite player and the Steelers should at least inquire about the price and his availability. That is due process. But in order to make a move like this you have to make some sacrifices towards your young core to win now with a 32-year-old defensive tackle. And the better question may be if Pittsburgh is ready to win now. You can bank on Pickett all you want, but is this team ready to compete for a Super Bowl this year when Donald considered retirement not too long ago?
That might be a year off, and it makes a move like this all the more tenuous. So, add all of that up and I just don’t see this happening in the grand spectrum of a few reasons. For one, I don’t think Donald is getting traded. Second, I’m not sure the timeline lines up for Donald’s career end and where Pittsburgh is at the moment. Third, I am still not sure if they would be willing to sacrifice some pieces of the young core in order to make the move.
If this gains steam, maybe Pittsburgh does become a destination that is real. I can’t see it right now. But the argument isn’t that hard to justify it. I just know the Steelers have a plan from the beginning on how to attack this retooling period in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, and I’m not sure Donald lines up all that seamlessly with that.