Steelers could be eyeing a different Broncos defensive back at the NFL trade deadline

Perhaps Pat Surtain II isn't the Broncos defensive back the Steelers are eyeing.

Steelers, Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers, Pittsburgh Steelers / Jamie Schwaberow/GettyImages

Throughout the month of October, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been a team at the center of NFL trade rumors. With the Halloween trade deadline rapidly approaching for all deals to be finalized, many football analysts believe that Pittsburgh could be the team to pull off a blockbuster move to help ensure that they are a true contender this year.

The trade that all Steelers fans would love to see happen is a deal for Denver Broncos cornerback, Pat Surtain II. Like Joey Porter Jr., Surtain is a second-generation NFL player. Recently, I wrote an article on why this would be a dream trade scenario for a team starving for cornerback help. But there might be another Broncos defensive back that the Steelers are more likely to target.

Recently, NFL senior writer Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated talked about nine NFL trades that we could see at the deadline. One of them was a Steelers trade for Broncos safety, Justin Simmons. Here was Orr's explanation.

"“While this may seem odd, given that the Steelers are settled at the position, Simmons could break open the defense and allow all of its component parts to spread their wings. Safeties are valuable, especially rangy ones, in a division where the more physical the secondary, the better its chances of survival. Pittsburgh is not one offensive upgrade away from becoming an elite offense, but Simmons could get the Steelers to the territory where, if Pittsburgh makes the playoffs as a low seed, it would have a better chance of completely upending an opponent by showing them something they haven’t shown all season, or simply overwhelming them with experience in the secondary and creating that critical turnover. This would remind me a little of when they plucked Minkah Fitzpatrick away from the Dolphins in 2019.”"

Connor Orr

This is an interesting proposal, as Simmons is having arguably the worst season of his NFL career. In addition, safety doesn't seem like nearly as big of a need for Pittsburgh's defense.

Should the Steelers trade for Justin Simmons?

While the Steelers could use a long-term replacement next to Minkah Fitzpatrick at the safety position, Simmons is unlikely to be that guy. The veteran safety turns 30 years old in a few weeks, and he didn't have elite speed coming into the NFL back in 2016. His best playing days are likely behind him.

At the same time, his drop in play and the fact that he's an older player could drive the price down on a potential trade, as the Broncos are simply looking to unload contracts at this point in preparation for their rebuild. His base salary of $14.5 million next season could make this difficult to work with, and Omar Khan would probably need to ask the Broncos to absorb some of this to make a trade more manageable.

However, the collection of his age and questionable contract means that a trade for Simmons could come very cheap. Orr estimates that it would cost just a third-round pick to get this done, and quite honestly, the Broncos might be willing to pull the trigger on a deal for less than this.


The Steelers seem to like what they have going for them at the safety position as they continue to rotate Damontae Kazee and Keanu Neal next to Edmunds in the secondary, but Simmons would no doubt be an upgrade. The former safety has earned 28 interceptions throughout his NFL career. In 2020, Simmons earned Pro Bowl honors, and from 2020 to 2022 he never earned fewer than 5 picks in a season.

Pittsburgh's defense is predicated on splash-play ability, and Simmons certainly offers that. Having him in the secondary would be nice, but what the Steelers really need at the NFL trade deadline is an upgrade at the cornerback position. For this reason, I would probably pass on trading for Justin Simmons and look for a player at a bigger position of need.

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