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Reporter Claims Russell Wilson Struggled with Playbook in Denver



Russell Wilson Steelers Quarterback

Russell Wilson had a bad rap in Denver and Seattle for lacking leadership and not being a good teammate. Nothing of such has been showcased in Pittsburgh so far, however.

Wilson sat next to Steelers offensive lineman Spencer Anderson at the Penguins game a few weeks ago. Anderson was a seventh-round pick out of Maryland last year and is not a marquee name on the roster. That action by Wilson is a far cry from the reports out of Denver that he was out of touch and didn’t relate with anyone in the locker room.

Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth also praised Wilson for organizing an offseason workout in San Diego. Freiermuth, Calvin Austin III, and Van Jefferson attended the workout.

“That was big time,” Freiermuth told Teresa Varley of “He invited us to San Diego and a couple of us went there and got to work out and run routes and get to know each other. That’s big. The relationship on the field is big but building that off field is a big thing. It’s that trust you can bring over to the football field.”

Wilson tweeted at every Steelers draft pick and called first-round selection Troy Fautanu. His and the early comments from players in the locker room show leadership in the quarterback room.

Maybe Sean Payton was the issue, and not Wilson.

Despite the good vibes that Wilson has displayed, Aditi Kinkabwala of CBS Sports made some striking claims against the nine-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion.

“He was constantly climbing out of the back of the pocket. He struggled with snap counts. He couldn’t manage or handle the play-calling,” Kinkhabwala said of Wilson’s tenure in Denver during an appearance on The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show. “They went from putting a wristband on [him] to by the end of the season, all the play calls had to be two words and everybody else was required to know what the play calls were.

“There is a very, very valid reason that Sean Payton is saying I’m going to pay this guy millions upon millions of dollars to be nowhere near my locker room.”

Wilson was benched by Broncos head coach Sean Payton for the final two games of the season. The two never saw eye to eye, which set up Wilson’s departure after a dreadful two years in Denver. The Broncos will take on an $85 million hit in dead money on its salary cap over the next two seasons because of Wilson’s release. The Broncos are also paying Wilson nearly $38 million this year to play for the Steelers, who will only pay him just over $1 million on a veteran minimum contract.

The Steelers play the Broncos at Mile High this season, so Wilson will have a revenge game against his former team. Given the storylines, it wouldn’t be surprising if the game is in prime time.

Multiple sources told Alan Saunders of Steelers Now that by the end of Wilson’s tenure in Denver, the relationship with Broncos head coach Sean Payton had become toxic.

But was all of that the fault of Wilson, or was he just a part of a few bad situations. In conversations with several sources close to the Broncos and former teammates of Wilson’s, no one was willing to offer a cogent criticism of the behavior of the 35-year-old quarterback.

“All of that is overblown,” one Broncos source told Steelers Now. “He’s a great guy and great in the locker room.”

Another league source said that while the personalities between Payton and Wilson were “oil and water,” it was more of a bad fit between the two than any specific fault of one or the other. A player that had been a younger teammate of Wilson’s in Seattle credited his leadership and mentorship during his time there.