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Grading Each of the Steelers' Offseason Moves So Far

Free agency began on Monday, but the dominoes started to fall even on Sunday evening. The Steelers made their first major move, signing Russell Wilson to a one-year deal. Since then, the Steelers have signed several free agents and made some trades, and we will grade them all on a letter scale.

Without further ado, here's each of the significant moves listed in chronological order.

Steelers sign QB Russell Wilson to one-year, $1.21 million deal

Grade: A

Wilson enters a Steelers locker room that was desperate for a starting quarterback after the collective woes of Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett, and Mason Rudolph (who was admittedly decent) last season. He is coming off two mediocre years with the Broncos, but the latter half of last season was good for Wilson, as he threw for 14 touchdowns and two interceptions in his final nine games.

If Wilson can resurrect his career and return to his form from Seattle, the Steelers should be Super Bowl contenders this year. They already have one of the best defenses in the league (which has only gotten better this offseason; more on that later), and he will enter a team with a solid tight end group led by Pat Freiermuth and two underrated running backs, Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren.

Traded WR Diontae Johnson and a seventh-round draft pick to the Panthers for CB Donte Jackson and a sixth-round draft pick

Grade: B-

Johnson has been a solid receiver for the Steelers since being drafted in 2019, albeit somewhat overrated in certain circles. Johnson's biggest problem since entering the NFL has been with drops; he peaked with 13 in 2020 and still dealt with the issue in 2021 and 2022. In 2023, he had a breakthrough and only dropped two passes, but that coincided with him having the lowest targets and reception numbers he has ever had in the NFL.

Johnson was clearly being replaced as the Steelers' number-one receiver by George Pickens, and the Steelers were wise to receive some value for him. Jackson is a solid cornerback who has spent six years with the Panthers. If he can close the hole at cornerback opposite Joey Porter Jr., this trade will be even better.

However, not many Steelers fans will miss Johnson's penchant for running backward after the catch.

Signed LB Patrick Queen to a three-year, $41 million deal

Grade: A-

Queen is a good linebacker who helps fill the Steelers' hole at the position since Ryan Shazier's career-ending injury. The three-year, $41 million deal is the largest (in terms of money) that the Steelers have ever given to a player they were signing from another team, and it is well-deserved.

Queen has improved each season, but his fifth-year option was declined shortly before the 2023 season. He responded by having the best season of his career and making his first Pro Bowl. The Steelers will be rewarded handsomely if Queen can continue his upward trajectory.

Traded QB Kenny Pickett and a fourth-round pick to the Eagles for a third-round pick and a seventh-round pick

Grade: B+

Pickett was initially OK with competing for a starting spot, but once the Steelers signed Wilson and made it clear he would be the starter, Pickett asked to be traded, and they quickly found a buyer in the Eagles. Pickett has talent and would probably be better off as a backup and spot-starter, which is what he will be in Philadelphia, and the Steelers got a decent-value pick in return.

The Pickett experiment is officially over in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers ensured they got a decent return for the former first-round pick.

Traded a conditional sixth-round pick to the Bears for QB Justin Fields

Grade: A

After the Steelers traded Pickett, it became clear that they would need to pick up a quarterback before the NFL Draft, if not two, and they didn't wait long to get their guy. The Steelers had been linked to a trade for Fields for the last month, but they had publicly stated that they weren't interested, and they swooped in and picked him up when it seemed like nobody else was interested anymore.

The Bears were initially seeking a high draft pick for Fields, potentially a first- or second-round pick, but after there wasn't a high market for him, the Steelers could get a good backup quarterback for cheap. Additionally, if Wilson isn't very good, they can always start Fields and see if he gets any better with a change in scenery, and they can also have Fields sit behind Wilson and develop. Regardless, the Steelers have made out like bandits with their two acquisitions at the quarterback position.

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