Steelers must capitalize on Kenny Pickett’s rookie contract window

Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Acrisure Stadium on August 28, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Acrisure Stadium on August 28, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Many AFC Teams are devoting a large portion of their salary cap space to their quarterback. Here’s why the Steelers must capitalize on an opportunity over the next few seasons. 

In today’s passing league, quarterbacks are making more money and eating up a higher percentage of a team’s total cap space than we have ever seen. Obviously, there’s a good reason for this. Quarterbacks have one of the most important jobs in all of sports, and it’s really hard to be a contending team without one.

Recently, ESPN’s Adam Schefter announced that Russell Wilson earned a massive contract extension that would pay him $265 million over five additional years. In terms of yearly value in new annual money, Wilson is now set to make a whopping $49 million per season — second to only Aaron Rodgers at $50.2 per year, according to Over the Cap.

With Wilson joining the Broncos this offseason, the AFC is now loaded with outrageously high quarterback contracts that will have some of the top teams in the conference strapped when it comes to spending over the next several seasons. There are currently five quarterbacks in the AFC who are making upwards of $40 million per season — and that doesn’t even include players like Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, and Joe Burrow who will all break the bank soon enough.

Nobody is arguing that quarterbacks shouldn’t be the highest-paid player on the team. They have such a heavy impact on the outcome of the game. However, some of these teams are going to have far less money to work with in the coming seasons than Pittsburgh as a result, and the Steelers need to take advantage.

Steelers must capitalize on the rookie window with Pickett

It’s unclear at this point when Kenny Pickett will see the field for the first team in meaningful action, but all signs point to the Steelers starting Mitch Trubisky to begin the 2022 season. Still, that doesn’t mean that Pickett won’t see the field during his rookie season.

The financial aspect of things is something the front office must consider. While all of these top AFC quarterbacks are accounting for a very high percentage of their team’s overall salary cap space, Pickett is making just $3.5 million per season on his rookie deal.

This is an absurdly small number in comparison. Obviously, Pickett hasn’t proven anything yet, and it’s part of the reason why players on rookie deals don’t make as much money. However, if he picks up where he left off during the preseason and proves to be a capable QB who can carry them to victory, the Steelers could take advantage of one of the best contracts in the league.

Over the next four seasons, Pickett will be roughly $45 million cheaper per year than a player like Denver’s Russell Wilson. This isn’t chump change. With the money the team will be saving at the QB position, Pittsburgh should be able to load up their roster with high-end free agents in an effort to build a championship roster.

In the past, the Seahawks and Steelers are just a few examples of teams who took advantage of a QBs rookie contract window, as Seattle won the Super Bowl while Wilson was still on his rookie deal, and Pittsburgh did likewise with Ben Roethlisberger early in his career. The money saved allowed these two teams to invest heavily into surrounding talent and both were able to spend high to have an elite defense around them.

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This might be jumping the gun. We don’t know for sure that Kenny Pickett is going to be a good NFL quarterback. However, if he even resembles a player who could help take them to the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers could build their roster over the next few seasons and make a run at a Super Bowl with all of the money they are saving at the QB position. They just have to play their cards right.