Russell Wilson could be a thorn in the Steelers side for a long time

Russell Wilson is the new starting quarterback for the Steelers, but a so-so season could put the team in a bad spot and mess them up for a long time.
Pittsburgh Steelers OTA Offseason Workout
Pittsburgh Steelers OTA Offseason Workout / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

The Steelers made some aggressive moves in order to revamp their quarterback room this offseason. They gutted the entire room in favor of the new two-man power trip in Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. As it stands, this is Wilson’s job to lose, and he should be given a fair shot to revive his career in Pittsburgh this year.

Wilson is a weird case to study. While his stats looked ok last year, his play has declined since his prime years in Seattle. Getting him for the minimum is a fine move, and he certainly played better than the conglomerate of quarterbacks this team used last year. His signing doesn’t come without risks though, and more specifically long-term risks to this organization.

As a fan, I want to see Wilson either get back to his dynamic ways or completely fall off and look like a shell of himself. If he balls out, great, you have a viable quarterback for the next few seasons and can ink him to a new deal. If he tanks, you can see what you have in Justin Fields and let Wilson walk next year.

My concern lies in the most likely scenario, Wilson plays ok. He does just enough to win games and get this team to the playoffs and maybe even win a game there. For the most part, the Steelers are winning with Wilson though, not because of him. Average quarterback play is costly for teams, and Pittsburgh can’t settle for a mediocre version of Wilson.

What an average Wilson means for the Steelers

Throwing out the two extremes, what happens if the Steelers repeat their previous season and Wilson is, again, a very average player? For the immediate 2024 season, the ramifications aren’t that great. The issue is that he will want a new deal, and Pittsburgh may not be willing to redo their quarterback room for back-to-back seasons.

This means an extension, but as has been seen in the past, extending average quarterbacks is both costly and, usually, a waste of resources. Contracts for Derek Carr and Daniel Jones are proof of this. Neither are elite quarterbacks, but since they are capable starters they are still expensive.

No one views the Saints or Giants as Super Bowl contenders, so the only thing these quarterbacks are doing is eating a large chunk of cap space and keeping their teams in a mediocre state. You don’t lose enough to land a top pick, but you also aren’t winning enough to enjoy the spoils of being a contender.

If Wilson falls into this category, you can’t make him the next example. Landing him on his veteran minimum deal was great, but that was very much a unicorn scenario. He will want to get paid like a starter, and that deal won’t be cheap. The results are seen leaguewide though, these deals don’t work out as you would want.

Ideally, Wilson turns back the clock and looks like the dynamic player of old. If he does fail, I hope it is clear with little doubt that he can still hang as a starter. That awkward middle area could doom the Steelers to mediocrity with a big quarterback contract for an average starter.

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