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Rich Eisen: No Guarantee Russell Wilson is Steelers Starter if He Signs

The Pittsburgh Steelers could bring in Russell Wilson, but he might not be the outright starter if they sign him.



Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent Target Russell Wilson
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) gets set to run a play against the Detroit Lions during an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

The Pittsburgh Steelers were connected to Russell Wilson on Thursday after a report by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Steelers have been repeatedly linked to the former Seattle Seahawks All-Pro, who was informed by the Broncos this week that he will be released, and given permission to speak with other teams before the official start of free agency. But according to Rich Eisen, if he signs, there is no guarantee that he will be the team’s starter.

“They like Kenny Pickett,” Eisen said on the Rich Eisen Show. “I’m going to keep warning everybody, but enough to give him very little competition, nah uh. If they bring in Russ, there will be a competition and they might even add a third…If they start Kenny Pickett, Russ is going to be holding a clipboard, or even worse, cut. t’s not going to cost them anything to cut him.”

General manager Omar Khan and head coach Mike Tomlin have both said that Pittsburgh is in the market for competition for incumbent starting quarterback Kenny Pickett this offseason.

Russell Wilson would likely be the most significant available competition for Pickett, and he could come at a minuscule price. The Broncos gave Wilson a guaranteed $39 million in salary for the 2024 season, and any amount the Steelers or any other team would pay him would simply be removed from Denver’s commitments.

The sticking point in negotiations may come down to what happens in 2025 and beyond. Wilson will turn 36 during the 2024 season, and it’s uncertain if teams will want to make a more-than-one-year commitment to the veteran passer.

Statistically, Wilson had a rebound in 2023 after a rough season in 2022. Last year, Wilson started 15 games for the Broncos, completing 297 of 447 passes (66.4%) for 3,070 yards, 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions for a 98.0 passer rating and a 6.04 adjusted net yards per attempt. Wilson was benched by the Broncos for the stretch run, after a contract dispute between him and the team over his contract guarantee for the 2025 season.

Denver is just two seasons removed from trading for Wilson. The Broncos sent two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, defensive lineman Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant to the Seahawks for Wilson on March 16, 2022.

A Super Bowl champion and nine-time Pro Bowler with the Seahawks, Wilson struggled in Denver. He posted an 84.4 passer rating in 2022, which was by far the lowest mark of his career, and was sacked a league-high 55 times.

The Broncos fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett after just one season, trading more draft picks for former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton this past offseason. Wilson played better, but he did not appear to have a solid relationship with Payton, who has gone out of his way to criticize Wilson this offseason.

The Broncos absorbed a gigantic salary cap hit in order to move on from Wilson. They can minimize it if they release him with a post-June 1 designation, but that would still deal them a$85 million in dead cap charges over each the 2024 and 2025 seasons.