49ers star receiver Brandon Aiyuk reaches out to Steelers HC Mike Tomlin

Is Brandon Aiyuk's recent social media post all for fun or the latest in a trail of breadcrumbs in connection with the Steelers?

San Francisco 49ers v Pittsburgh Steelers
San Francisco 49ers v Pittsburgh Steelers / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

Since the Steelers traded Diontae Johnson to the Carolina Panthers, there have been rumors swirling about what Omar Khan could do to fix the wide receiver position in Pittsburgh. Even after the addition of free agent Van Jefferson, George Pickens is the only quality option in the WR room.

Their sudden lack of depth and starting options behind Pickens have caused many to believe that the Steelers will address this need with one of the best remaining free-agent options, while others (like Mel Kiper Jr.) believe Pittsburgh may spend their first-round pick to fix the position.

But what about trading for a wide receiver?

This is something that has been catching steam the past few days, and there's one name that is being rumored in connection with the Steelers.

On March 19th, a source close to Andrew Fillipponi of 93.7 The Fan told him that the Steelers were looking into trading for Brandon Aiyuk. The 49ers star receiver is coming off a phenomenal season in which he exploded for 1,342 yards and 7 touchdowns on an outstanding 12.8 yards per target.

Now more pieces of the puzzle are falling in place, and things are starting to get interesting. A social media post shows that Aiyuk reached out to Mike Tomlin on 'X'.

This tweet was in reference to pictures that have been going around 'X' noting the similarities in appearance between Aiyuk and Coach Tomlin. Because Aiyuk is still under contract with the 49ers, Mike Tomlin is not allowed to speak to the wide receiver without the team's permission.

What's interesting is that Aiyuk doesn't use his 'X' account often. Prior to this post (which was later deleted), Aiyuk last posted on April 30th, 2023, and most of his recent likes are from July of 2021.

Steelers should trade for Aiyuk, but there are cheaper options out there

I don't want to read too deeply into this social media post, but the breadcrumbs certainly seem to indicate that Brandon Aiyuk could be on the move soon and the Steelers could have an interest in trading for him. Along with the 'X' post and the report from Fillipponi, the 49ers seem to be open to the idea as a means of saving money.

Aiyuk was incredible in 2023. After a remarkable performance last season, there's a case to be made that he is one of the best receivers in the NFL. Though he might be the best option available, there are far less expensive options the Steelers should consider going with at the wide receiver position.

Trading for Aiyuk would not only require elite draft capital, but it would also mean that the Steelers would be forced to turn around and dish out a massive contract to their new wide receiver. Aiyuk is projected to receive an average annual earnings on his next contract in the ballpark of $30 million per season.

This is too high of an investment to stomach all at once -- even for a receiver as talented as Aiyuk. A much cheaper option would be to rebuild through the NFL Draft (something the Steelers do as well as any team in the league at the wide receiver position).

Pittsburgh has good draft capital this year, and this is a remarkably talented receiver class in the 2024 NFL Draft. The Steelers could even consider doubling up at the position in the draft and getting two players on rookie contracts for the next four years.