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Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL offseason primer: What do they do at QB? Enter Russell Wilson and Justin Fields

Pittsburgh Steelers' 2023 season: 10-7, lost in wild card

Overview: The Steelers didn’t have a great team in 2023, or even a particularly good one, but they still found a way to win a lot of close games and make the playoffs. And despite sneaking into the postseason as the seventh and final seed in the AFC, they kept it close with No. 2 seed Buffalo in the wild-card round.

Pittsburgh never found much of an answer at quarterback as 2022 first-rounder Kenny Pickett was mostly ineffective before going down with an ankle injury in Week 13, and he didn't regain his job even when he was healthy. Pittsburgh made the move to end the Pickett Era by trading him to the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2024 third-round draft pick and two seventh-rounders in 2025.

Backup Mason Rudolph had some positive moments, but he didn't exactly look like a franchise QB. It's why the Steelers are taking a swing on Russell Wilson, signing him to a one-year deal, and Rudolph is off to the Tennessee Titans on a one-year deal, according to NFL Network. The Steelers also made a reported deal for the Chicago Bears' Justin Fields, creating one of the NFL's most interest QB depth charts this offseason.

The Steelers are in good hands as long as Mike Tomlin is overseeing their operation. He has still never had a losing season in 17 years as Steelers head coach.

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)
(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

Key free agents

CB Levi Wallace
QB Mason Rudolph

Who's in/out? After Russell Wilson, the Steelers' biggest early move was agreeing to sign former Ravens star linebacker Patrick Queen on a reported three-year, $41 million deal. Pittsburgh doesn’t have too much by the way of key talent hitting free agency, but Wallace potentially leaving puts a spotlight on their cornerbacks room and the talent they need to add there. The Steelers reportedly traded for cornerback Donte Jackson in a deal with the Panthers that sent wideout Diontae Johnson to Carolina. As for Rudolph, he played solid at the end of the regular season and started Pittsburgh's playoff game but he's headed to Tennessee.

Key free-agent needs

Quarterback
Cornerback
Offensive line
Wide receiver

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 7: Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) looks up at a fan as he leaves after the game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 7, 2024. The Las Vegas Raiders beat the Denver Broncos 27-14 during week 18 of NFL season. (Photo by  RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Russell Wilson will reportedly sign with the Steelers. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images) (RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Why the holes? When asked if Pickett would be the starting QB next season, Tomlin said "there will be competition." That was a strong indication the team planned to add to the QBs room in either the draft or free agency. We found it was via free agency, and in the form of a former two-time Super Bowl QB in Wilson, with Pickett departing from the Steelers entirely days later. It was also found in a deal with the Bears, in which the Steelers reportedly surrendered for Fields only a sixth-round 2025 draft pick that could become a fourth-rounder.

Wide receiver was a late addition to this list after the team surprisingly traded Diontae Johnson away to the Panthers, but the team did get CB Donte Jackson in exchange, which fills another need. Elsewhere at CB, Joey Porter Jr. is a star, but that group is otherwise thin. And offensive line is a need on a unit that lacks star power.

Do they have the money? A bit. The Steelers are projected to have $16.9 million in salary-cap space, per Spotrac.com, so there’s some more work to be done if they want to make big changes.

2023 NFLPA report card

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

Potential notable cuts

DL Cam Heyward
DL Larry Ogunjobi

Why they might be gone: The Steelers are already releasing WR Allen Robinson to save $10 million in cap space and CB Patrick Peterson to save about $7 million. Losing Cam Heyward would be a tough sentimental blow, but releasing him would also save $16 million on the Steelers’ cap. The team already announced the release of starting center Mason Cole, which will clear $4.75 million in cap space.

Draft picks

1st round: No. 20
2nd round: No. 51
3rd round: No. 84
3rd round: No. 98 (from Eagles)
4th round: No. 118
6th round: No. 178 (from Panthers via Cardinals)
6th round: No. 194

Good draft fit

Alabama CB Kool-Aid McKinstry

Why him? Look at the Steelers' cornerback room, especially in the event that Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace don’t return. They need a body and a young contract there — easiest way to do that is the draft. McKinstry is a cornerback with huge upside and would pair nicely with Joey Porter Jr., who emerged as a star during his rookie season. They’ll need cornerback talent while facing Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson in the division.

What can move the fantasy football needle this offseason?

We needed the Steelers to enter camp with a new name on the depth chart at QB, so the addition of Russell Wilson is not unwelcome. Wilson's passing charts were hilarious last season — nearly every attempt was at or near the line of scrimmage, with a few deep shots along the way — but his tendencies would have actually paired well with George Pickens. The team's receiving corps took a hit after trading away Diontae Johnson, which doesn't help an already troubled offense. In fact, they somehow finished with only 13 touchdown passes last year, ranking next-to-last in the league ahead of only the Jets. — Andy Behrens