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Simms: Sean Payton Will Want to Make a Point Against Russell Wilson in Week 2

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Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent Target QB Russell Wilson

If Arthur Smith and Russell Wilson are ‘somewhat scalded’, as Mike Tomlin so eloquently put it, then they have some chances to make a dent in their previous ires early in the season. Opening up against Atlanta into Denver gives the Steelers a chance to get after the team Smith was fired by and the team that dumped Wilson to the side after the 2023 season.

Going into Denver in Week 2, a place that has become dangerous for the Steelers when they have traveled that far, could present a tougher matchup than most think. Even if the rookie, Bo Nix, should be a nice early-season matchup for the Steelers defense, the emotions in the building should be high both weeks and the Steelers can exorcise past demons for their offensive coordinator and quarterback.

In regards to Russell Wilson, he was benched by Broncos head coach Sean Payton for the final two games of the 2023 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.

There’s a lot of bad blood between Wilson and Payton, for sure. One veteran AFC personnel executive even told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN that Payton never liked Wilson from Day 1.

“Sean never liked him as the guy from Day 1 and went out of his way to make that known,” the source said.

Payton ripped into Wilson on the sideline during a game in Detroit this past season. It seemed more personal than a coach just letting a player have it.

Former NFL quarterback and current NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms thinks Payton will do everything in his power to stick it to Wilson in Week 2.

“Never easy playing in Denver. You know, Sean Payton’s gonna want to make a point there and go, ‘Wait, I’m not gonna let the guy that I wasted all this salary cap on, and moved on from, and had to waste all this time talking about and blah, blah, blah. I don’t want him to come in here and win that game.’ I know Sean Payton. He’s chippy. He’s certainly not gonna want that. Definitely not,” Simms said during a Pro Football Talk live episode.

Pittsburgh Steelers Russell Wilson

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) before an NFL football game in Empower Field at Mile High Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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.

Wilson, who will turn 36 in November, is out to prove that he still has a lot left in the tank. He’ll also want to get revenge on his former team and coach in Denver this season that publicly embarrassed him.

“Over the next two years, I want to win two [Super Bowls], I want to feel the chill of that trophy again,” Wilson told former Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall on the I Am Athlete podcast. “I love the city [of Denver] and everything else, but you also want to be [in] a place that wants you too. The thing I want to do is to win; that’s all I care about.”