Steelers are in perfect position for blockbuster WR trade

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a prime position to make this blockbuster deal

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a prime position to make a blockbuster trade for a wide receiver in the 2024 offseason, and the timing seems right for something to get done. The San Francisco 49ers may be willing to part ways with wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk this offseason, and the Pittsburgh Steelers might be willing to pay up.

That's a lot of hypotheticals, but that's also the fun of the NFL offseason, isn't it?

If Aiyuk is available for the price of a first-round pick and change -- with the understanding that he is going to require a long-term contract on top of it -- what would possibly be holding the Steelers back?

Pittsburgh traded away its second-leading receiver (Diontae Johnson) to the Carolina Panthers with George Pickens taking on a bigger role in the offense. But with Johnson out of the picture, the Steelers' top options at receiver outside of Pickens are now Calvin Austin and free agent signing Van Jefferson.

It's not exactly the type of depth at receiver we've come to expect from Pittsburgh.

Although the Steelers are masters of finding receivers after the first round of the NFL Draft, there's arguably not a single better use of their 20th overall pick than investing it in Brandon Aiyuk, a proven commodity at one of the game's most important positions. Yes, it would cost Pittsburgh more than just a draft pick. It will likely cost a new contract north of $20 million per season. But Aiyuk is also an ascending player who is only going to be 26 years old this season, and is coming off of two thousand-yard campaigns.

Aiyuk has proven himself to be one of the best receivers in the NFL after the catch, but he was more effective downfield in 2023 than any other year in his career. His average depth of target in 2023 was 13.8, beating his previous high of 9.9 with relative ease. This is a great indicator of how well-rounded Aiyuk's game is becoming. This is a player who has always been known for his ability to break tackles, but he's now proving more and more that he can consistently get open deep downfield.

That skill set just so happens to be perfect for either of the Steelers' new quarterbacks -- Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. Having two targets like George Pickens and Brandon Aiyuk who are extremely hard to miss would be ideal for the Steelers getting a clean evaluation on either Wilson or Fields.

And Pittsburgh didn't sign Wilson, trade for Fields, and cut bait on a former first-round pick in Kenny Pickett just to see what might stick. They feel like they have a championship-caliber defense (rightfully so) and it's been wasted on poor offensive play. Why would they mess around at wide receiver when the opportunity to strike on Brandon Aiyuk could be there?

It would perhaps cost the Steelers another pick on top of the 20th overall selection, but that's not a deal breaker. Think about how huge it was for the Philadelphia Eagles to swap the 16th overall pick for AJ Brown back in the 2022 NFL Draft.

This is a move the Steelers should be all over.