Russell Wilson and the Steelers Are Perfect for Each Other

However, that doesn't mean everything will work out in Pittsburgh

Russell Wilson walking into Super Bowl 56.
A Seahawk. A Bronco. And now a Steeler.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty

A Super Bowl winner in his sophomore season who went to the playoffs in eight of his seasons in Seattle and had a losing record just once, Russell Wilson was traded to Denver following the 2021 season to spend the second act of his career as the franchise quarterback the Broncos have been searching for since Peyton Manning’s retirement nearly a decade ago.

That plan failed almost instantly as Wilson got off to a horrible start in Denver under first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett and didn’t really do much better after Hackett was fired in the middle of last season. Denver’s front office had mile-high hopes that bringing in one-time Super Bowl winner Sean Payton as head coach would help revive Wilson, but the Broncos were a disappointing 8-9 in the 2023 season and missed the playoffs for the eighth straight year.

Denver apparently came to the conclusion that coaching was not the problem with Wilson and informed him that he would be released later this month while also giving him the green light to find a new team. That was never going to be an issue for Wilson because the Broncos are on the hook for his $17 million base salary and $22 million option bonus in 2024, essentially making him free for any team that wanted him thanks to the offset language in his contract.

It Appears the Seahawks Fleeced the Broncos in the Russell Wilson Trade
Seattle has gone 3-3 with Geno Smith at QB since trading Wilson as the Broncos have limped to a 2-4 record with him

The Steelers, who have never had a losing season during Mike Tomlin’s 17-year tenure in Pittsburgh but also haven’t won a playoff game since 2016, were that team and are expected to pay Wilson about $1.2 million on a one-year contract after reaching a deal with him late last night, according to ESPN.

No matter how you look at it, the deal is a great one for Pittsburgh as they are getting a bargain, even if Wilson just serves as a backup to third-year quarterback Kenny Pickett. Of course, the Steelers have to be hoping 35-year-old Wilson will find the fountain of youth in Pittsburgh and be their starter in 2024, as Pickett was not impressive last year and failed to throw a touchdown in seven of his 12 starts. Ouch.

The fit in Pittsburgh is a good one for Wilson as well, as he joins a stable organization that consistently wins football games, regardless of who their quarterback is and how he’s playing as long as Tomlin is in charge. A winner for the vast majority of his time in Seattle, Wilson has the chance to prove that his two years in Denver were a fluke.

He’ll also be plenty motivated to do so as there’s no way Wilson is happy that the Broncos were so desperate to get rid of him that they are willing to pay almost $40 million for him to play for another team.

Assuming he wins the starting job in Pittsburgh, Wilson will get the chance to stick it to Denver directly as the Steelers have a road date with Denver on their 2024 schedule. Though the NFL has yet to announce dates for next season’s games, there’s certainly a chance the NFL will schedule Wilson’s return to Denver for Week 1, the same way they did when he made his return to Seattle in his first game with the Broncos.

That game was a loss for Wilson and the Broncos. If Russ can still cook, his return to Denver should be a win for the Steelers — assuming he isn’t just cooked. Since he’s turning 36 in November, it’s certainly possible he is.

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