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Report: Steelers View Russell Wilson as Backup to Kenny Pickett

The Pittsburgh Steelers do not view Russell Wilson as a slam dunk starting quarterback in 2024.



Steelers Russell Wilson Super Bowl

The Pittsburgh Steelers view Russell Wilson as a backup candidate to Kenny Pickett, not as a player who will automatically usurp him as the starter, according to a report by Noah Strackbein of All Steelers.

“It is important to note that Wilson would not be signing as a starter. Instead, he is viewed as a backup to Kenny Pickett, whom the Steelers continue to have full confidence in. The addition of Wilson comes in twofold — as a veteran mentor and as a reliable backup if Pickett were unable to play,” Strackbein wrote.

There is no imminent signing between Wilson and the Steelers. But Strackbein’s report backs up what Rich Eisen said on Thursday when he was told that the team would view Wilson as competition rather than someone who would automatically push Pickett to the side.

“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.