Should the Steelers consider a trade for Isaiahh Simmons?

Steelers, Isaiah Simmons
Steelers, Isaiah Simmons / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Isaiah Simmons has been one player at the center of trade talks in recent weeks. Since getting his fifth-year option declined by the Arizona Cardinals back on May 1st, NFL writers have been quick to draw up trade scenarios. A potential Simmons trade has even drawn buzz from the Pittsburgh Steelers fans base.

Simmons was a former hybrid linebacker/defensive back out of Clemson who had the ability to line up all over the field. He was the former 8th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and at 6'4'' and 238 pounds with 4.39 speed, many believed he would be on the fast track to becoming one of the best linebackers in the NFL.

Though Simmons made strides in his third NFL season, it apparently wasn't enough for the Cardinals to trust giving him the fully-guaranteed fifth-year option. As a result, Simmons could be on his way out of Arizona following the 2023 season -- and possibly sooner.

But does a trade really make sense, and should the Steelers be the team that comes knocking for the versatile defender?

Steelers trade for Simmons doesn't make sense

I know that it would seem like a dream scenario to upgrade the linebacker position after cutting ties with the unspectacular trio of Devin Bush, Myles Jack, and Robert Spillane. On the surface, inquiring about a trade for Isaiah Simmons seems like an easy decision, but it doesn't make as much sense as it looks.

For starters, the Steelers signed a pair of linebackers in free agency. While they aren't high-profile players, Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts are both former team captains and starters who can come in to fill the void left by the trio of departures at the linebacker position.

From a financial perspective, the Steelers can find a way to get this done. According to Over the Cap, Pittsburgh sits at roughly $15.7 million in effective salary cap space, Simmons, meanwhile, has a base salary of $1.01 million (the rest of his $6.5 million cap number comes in the former of bonuses).

But it's not just adding a player on a rookie contract. The Steelers would then have to turn around and give Simmons a sizeable contract extension. The hard part is trying to determine what he will be worth and not handing out a contract the team will later regret.

While Simmons showed improvement in 2022, He was unspectacular in his first two seasons. Part of the reason for this improvement could be his shift in role for the Cardinals. According to Pro Football Focus, Simmons played 297 snaps from the box and 110 snaps on the lineup up on the defensive line. However, the fact that he played 409 snaps at slot cornerback caused PFF to change his listed position from LB to CB.

Perhaps playing in the secondary and at slot cornerback is the best role for Simmons, and if this is the case, that's exactly what the Steelers need. However, it doesn't seem likely that the Pittsburgh Steelers would trade for a 6'4'', 238-pound former LB to use him as a defender in the secondary.

At the end of the day, because Simmons is entering the final year of his deal and needs a new contract, he could probably be acquired for a third or fourth-round draft choice. At this low price, however, the Cardinals would have to ask themselves if he's even worth trading. It might be more advantageous to hold onto him and hope he has a huge season.

Here's the kicker. The Steelers are already spending a ton of money on the defensive side of the ball -- and that's before Alex Highsmith gets his contract extension. If Simmons were to have a big year, he would also need a huge contract. If he disappoints, then the Steelers won't want to pay him anyway.

Isaiah Simmons turns just 25 years old this summer, and NFL analysts shouldn't be writing him off just yet. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers could be setting themselves up for a lose-lose situation if they were to trade for Simmons.

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I would love to think that he could answer all of their problems from the slot, but I'm not confident the team would use him this way. Spending draft capital in addition to turning around a paying a widely unknown player would be too big of a risk to take on at this point in time.