Russell Wilson to sign with Steelers

Russell Wilson was released by the Broncos after two poor seasons. (Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Russell Wilson’s first NFL stop was phenomenal, as he played at a near Hall of Fame level for the Seattle Seahawks. Then Wilson’s two seasons with the Denver Broncos went so poorly, it will go down among the worst trades and contracts in NFL history.

We’ll see what the third act brings. Wilson announced on social media Sunday that he plans to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers, confirming multiple media reports. Terms of the deal were not announced but ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported it was a one-year deal in which the Broncos will also be paying $38 million of Wilson’s 2024 salary.

What to expect from Wilson in Pittsburgh

Two years ago when the Broncos traded for Wilson, there was a lot of excitement over what was to come. This time around, nobody knows what will happen next.

Wilson couldn’t have found a much better situation to turn his career back around. The Steelers are a perennial winner coming off another playoff trip. They have talent on both sides of the ball and a respected head coach in Mike Tomlin.

What they didn’t have was an answer at quarterback. The Steelers drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round two years ago, and the signing of Wilson indicates the team has soured on that experiment. They get a veteran option at quarterback with plenty of success in his past and a Super Bowl ring as well.

The Steelers didn’t have a lot of salary cap space but that wasn’t a problem with Wilson because the Broncos owed him a large 2024 salary. And because of offset language, Wilson could sign for the veteran minimum with his new team. It’s a good fit for both sides. It’s a nearly risk-free acquisition for the Steelers and a chance for Wilson to change his legacy again.

Russell Wilson improved last season

The refrain after the Broncos landed Sean Payton to be their head coach a year ago was that he was in charge of fixing Wilson. And in some ways, he did.

Wilson was much better last season than he was for Nathaniel Hackett in 2022. Hackett was in way over his head as an NFL head coach and everything about that Broncos team was awful, including Wilson. Wilson looked like one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL that season.

Wilson didn’t play up to what the Broncos gave up for him in a trade or the contract extension he signed — the Broncos decided to cut him and eat an $85 million dead salary-cap hit, after all — but he was better. His completion percentage rose from 60.5 in 2022 to 66.4 last season. He threw for 26 touchdowns, up from 16 the year before. He cut his interceptions from 11 to eight. His passer rating was 98, after posting an 84.4 under Hackett.

He wasn’t all the way back to the player who made nine Pro Bowls in 10 Seahawks seasons, but it was better. Good enough that he’ll get another shot at age 35 to rewrite his legacy.

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