There has been lots of speculation about interest Aaron Rodgers has in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Of particular interest is the apparent connection he and Mike Tomlin seem to have. It popped up once again on the Mannings Monday Night Football broadcast of the Steelers/Browns game. Eli Manning point blank asked Rodgers what the deal was with he and Tomlin making eyes at each other during the game in October. Rodgers did not answer the question, but he did admit to “loving” Mike Tomlin. He also acknowledged at least a small relationship with the Steelers coach. https://youtu.be/qOJcwJS41TI
So what exactly would a Steelers trade for Aaron Rodgers look like? More importantly, how would it affect the team going forward? Here is a breakdown of what it would cost, and the possible road blocks associated with such a move:
How much would it cost?:
We can use the very recent Rams/Lions trade involving Mathew Stafford as at least a baseline of what it would take to acquire Aaron Rodgers. The Rams sent two first round picks, a third round pick, and Jared Goff to the Lions for Stafford. It seems pretty clear that any deal would have to include at least two first round picks minimum. There is no question that Aaron Rodgers is a far superior quarterback, but keep in mind he is also six years older. The Green Bay star will turn thirty nine this December.
The Packers will undoubtedly ask for more than just the two first rounders. The Steelers could sweeten the pot by throwing in a player. Perhaps the disappointing Chase Claypool might interest the Packers. Claypool has all the physical tools to entice another team. The way the Steelers draft wide receivers, this would be an easily replaceable part for them. Two first round picks, and a young talented receiver might be enticing enough to get the Packers to budge.
What about the cap?:
Aaron Rodgers is set to cost $27 million against the salary cap in 2022. As we stand today, the Steelers could fit that number under their cap. The problem being this team has several key holes to fill besides quarterback. Without a first round pick, and significantly less cap space remaining, filling those holes would be next to impossible.
Any trade involving Aaron Rodgers would have to be with the stipulation that his contract would be extended. Colbert could lower his 2022 cap hit substantially with a long term extension. Basically the Steelers could get that number as low as they wanted, depending on how much dead money they’d be willing to accept in future years. They did the exact same thing with Ben Roethlisberger this season.
What about the rest of the team?:
Say for the sake of argument Kevin Colbert gets the Rodgers cap hit down to a very reasonable fifteen million in 2022. That would leave the team roughly thirty million to spend in free agency. One player who might come back on a team friendly deal immediately comes to mind. You can pencil in Ju Ju Smith-Schuster on a team friendly one year deal. Combine the chance to play with Aaron Rodgers, with the opportunity to seriously rebuild his value for 2023, and this is a no-brainer for Smith-Schuster.
You can’t have the Steelers trade for Aaron Rodgers without a serious offensive line upgrade in mind. The team would have to use a large chunk of the remaining cap space on at least one offensive lineman. A left tackle in particular would have to be a top priority. Use their second round pick on a guard or center depending on if they believe Kendrick Green is salvageable. Now you have a substantially upgraded line to go with skill players like Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth, and potentially Ju Ju Smith-Schuster. Throw in Aaron Rodgers, and that is a Super Bowl caliber offense.
Unfortunately the defense would have to be patched up with a few of Kevin Colbert’s dumpster diving specials. At this point, re-signing Ahkello Witherspoon to replace Joe Haden would have to be priority one for the defense. In theory the Steelers could get this done reasonably in terms of corner back contracts. The team would then have to pray both Stephon Tuitt, and Tyson Alualu can come back from injury and help fix the atrocious run defense. There won’t be much money to spend on this side of the ball, but with a few breaks this defense could still be very good.
So let’s make it happen:
Aaron Rodgers is a lot of things. He can be quirky, and at times a bit of a diva. One thing is absolutely certain however, he is still at the very peak of his powers even at the age of 38. Rodgers is as good as any quarterback in the NFL right now, and that is worth paying a steep price for. With players like Watt, Fitzpatrick, and Diontae Johnson ready to hit their prime, rebuilding with a rookie quarterback would be a complete waste of their careers. If the alternative is bringing in a veteran for that position, why not go get the best possible quarterback available? We have written about how bleak the Steelers quarterback situation could be post Ben Roethlisberger. Steelers future at quarterback is as bleak as ever The Steelers should absolutely do everything they can to avoid this by acquiring Aaron Rodgers if at all possible.