The real reason the Steelers chose to not pursue Deshaun Watson
Of all the free agency options for a quarterback the Steelers could have landed, they chose Mitchell Trubisky. So why did they pass on Deshaun Watson?
Deshaun Watson would be the man of all the quarterbacks out there that check off all the boxes needed for a potential candidate to run Matt Canada’s offense. If all things were equal, there is no doubt the Steelers might have jumped at the chance of picking up Deshaun Watson. Yet the Steelers chose another option and one that does not appeal to everyone. So why then did the Steelers pass on Deshaun Watson?
Well, there are two reasons for that. One is the slightly more diplomatic business answer. While they might not say it outright, there is a second reason, and it’s one they have been through before. If you go with the diplomatic answer, the cost for Watson was prohibitive. While the Texans want to deal the quarterback to a new team and move on to life after Watson, they know they still need compensation. The Texans will milk that for all it’s worth.
Watson would have been pricey
In one supposed trade offer from the Browns that the Texans rejected, the Browns supposedly offered two number one selections, one 3rd rounder, Kareem Hunt, Greg Newsome, and Baker Mayfield, and the Texans reportedly declined. If that’s what they rejected, one can only imagine an offer they accept. It will be somewhere between the Russell Wilson trade and the Hershel Walker trade. So if the Steelers chose to pursue Watson, they would have given up quite a bit. So much it would have even made fans uncomfortable. Thus they went for the low-risk option of Trubisky.
All of that said, it’s likely the amount of draft capital they would have to surrender makes an excellent talking point; however, it’s unlikely the real reason they passed on Watson. The real reason is that the Steelers already went through this song and dance and had no desire to go through it again. In 2009 a major news story broke. The story had a shocking allegation that rocked not only Pittsburgh but also Steelers fans.
Watson would have been risky
Andrea McNulty accused Roethlisberger of sexually assaulting her in Lake Tahoe. Then a year later, another allegation surfaced in Georgia that Roethlisberger assaulted a girl in a nightclub. The second allegation proved to be the most serious of the two. It could have resulted in criminal charges.
As fate would have it, though, the investigation in Georgia was eventually dropped due to a lack of evidence, and McNulty’s settled her case out of court. Guilty or not, Roethlisberger dodged a bullet. He did not escape any punishment, though he faced a minor suspension.
What is not as widely known is that the Steelers nearly traded Roethlisberger to the 49ers at that time as well. Was it because of the allegations? We don’t know for certain. However, according to Mike Singletary, GM of San Francisco, a trade was on the table in a story reported by the Atlantic. The sexual assault allegations sunk the trade. Given that whoever lands, Watson may get a premium player, but he will still face a suspension and one much longer than Roethlisberger faced.
Regardless of whatever draft capital the Steelers might have had to give up to get Watson; his off-field antics hit too close to home. The Steelers didn’t’ want to deal with a situation that occurred barely a decade ago. Will the Steelers admit this? Perhaps not; why rehash a sore subject that only tarnishes the career of a great quarterback unnecessarily when you can point to whatever a team gives up to acquire Watson.