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Steelers Analysis

Why Courtland Sutton Makes Sense for the Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a new trade target they can look at on the wide receiver market, and it is Denver’s Courtland Sutton

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Pittsburgh Steelers Courtland Sutton

The Pittsburgh Steelers want to land a wide receiver via trade, which has been reported for a while now. Obviously, the name thrown around the most has been Brandon Aiyuk from the 49ers, and that rumor was largely sparked out of Aiyuk’s own doing a month ago.

But 49ers general manager John Lynch, who ran into Tomlin at Michigan pro day, threw cold water on the trade rumors, stating nothing is happening there.

And while Aiyuk might not be getting traded imminently or anytime soon, there is another receiver who could make sense for the Steelers. That would be Denver’s Courtland Sutton. They already moved on from Jerry Jeudy, and Sutton could very well be next in that list.

Sutton did not show up to the team’s voluntary workouts on Tuesday. Instead, Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network indicated that Sutton is holding out with hope for a new contract. Sutton would play with his tenth quarterback in seven seasons with the team, but the Steelers might be the team to go out and get him.

If there is one that could be a bigger splash but feels more likely, this one does. The Broncos are not in this thing to win it this year; in fact, they might be looking to try to bounce to the top of the draft board for the 2025 season. But Courtland Sutton has the Russell Wilson connection and profiles as the contested catch, big-bodied guy that the team was looking to add when Mike Williams was targeted.

Take it from the long view, and Sutton’s cap savings after June 1 would rack up to over $10 million. Even before then, the Broncos can stomach a trade, and Sutton has been rumored to perpetually be on the trade block for nearly a year at this point. It’s obviously not the same level of splash as Aiyuk or some other massive names that were thrown around, but Sutton has the connections and probably would not cost a ton to land in a trade, either. So, this makes sense on multiple levels for the Steelers.

Steelers Playoff

ORCHARD PARK, NY – NOVEMBER 24: Denver Broncos Wide Receiver Courtland Sutton (14) prior to the National Football League game between the Denver Broncos and the Buffalo Bills on November 24, 2019, at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

He best season came in 2019, when he earned a Pro Bowl nod after catching 72 of 124 targets for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns with the combination of Joe Flacco, Drew Lock and Brandon Allen as his starting quarterbacks.

The revolving door at quarterback continued with Teddy Bridgewater, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, Jarrett Stidham and Russell Wilson and even wide receiver Kendall Hinton starting games at quarterback for Denver over the last four seasons.

They would have to clear a little bit of cap space to fit Sutton under it. But with one simple restructure, it all works for the trade, and the Steelers would not have to trade a significant amount of draft capital. This is something to watch develop over the next few weeks, and it sure does feel like the Steelers would be in on this scenario.

To break down the financial implications — the Steelers or any other team acquiring Sutton will be on the hook for his salary, which is set to be $13 million in 2024 and $13.5 million in 2025. He is also due $470,576 in per-game roster bonuses this year and $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses next year and can earn $100,000 in incentives. But again, none of that is guaranteed outside of $2 million of his 2024 salary, and his contract could be renegotiated by an acquiring team.

So, in reality, the Steelers would be getting a wide receiver with proven ability to produce with their starting quarterback, who will also likely cost maybe their fourth-round pick or something along those lines. The move checks a ton of boxes. Sutton is the type of big-bodied player who can play an alpha role when needed. George Pickens can, too, but the Steelers need talent in their receiving corps. Sutton and a draft pick do just that.

The trade timeline for a potential Sutton trade is a different question. But don’t be surprised if the Steelers explore it. From a logical perspective, it does make a ton of sense.