It's been three years since the Steelers pulled off one of the biggest trades in franchise history. After an 0-2 start and losing Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending injury, the Steelers gave Miami a future first-round pick in exchange for Minkah Fitzpatrick, who then blossomed into a two-time All-Pro in Pittsburgh. The trade was an example of the Steelers' unyielding drive to build a championship roster, even during a season that appears to be lost.
It's not in the Steelers' nature to make a splashy trade ahead of the deadline. Especially during a season where they are 2-5 and will need a strong finish to have a chance at grabbing the AFC's seventh playoff seed. But if the Fitzpatrick trade showed us anything, it's that the Steelers cannot be ruled out of making a bold move between now and Nov. 1.
The Steelers have several areas they could try to improve on before the deadline if they so choose to. In the process, the Steelers could part with a veteran player or two who doesn't appear to be in the team's long-term plans.
Let's dive into the three deals the Steelers should consider making before the deadline.
Trade for either Robert Quinn or Jerry Hughes
The Steelers have just 12 sacks this season, with 6.5 of them coming from third-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith. That's a far cry from the past five years, when the Steelers held at least a share of the lead in sacks each season while recording at least 50 sacks per year over that span.
T.J. Watt's absence has clearly impacted the Steelers' pass rush. But even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year slated to return at some point this season, Pittsburgh would be wise to bolster its pass rush while providing depth behind Watt and Highsmith.
Like his teammate, Bears linebacker Roquan Smith, Quinn's name has consistently been in the middle of trade speculation. The 32-year-old pass rusher has 102 career sacks, which is tied with Aaron Donald for the sixth highest total amount current players. Quinn tallied a career-high 18.5 sacks last season while earning his third Pro Bowl berth and first since 2014. But he hasn't had nearly the same impact this year, with just one sack and eight tackles through seven games.
The Bears' asking price for Quinn would probably determine whether or not the Steelers would pull the trigger on a possible trade. It's possible that Pittsburgh -- which has six picks in the 2023 draft but is devoid of a fifth-round pick -- would trade a fourth-round pick in exchange for Quinn and either a sixth- or seventh-round pick. Any involvement of a third-round pick, however, would probably be too steep of an asking price for an aging player who has yet to produce this season.
Unlike a trade regarding Quinn, Pittsburgh would likely have to give up next year's third-round pick to acquire Hughes, who is enjoying a solid start in Houston. The longtime Bill has four sacks, an interception and a forced fumble this season for the 1-4-1 Texans. Hughes' production this season would surely warrant more trade compensation than Quinn, despite being two years older.
The Steelers acquiring either player largely depends on how much they value improving their pass rush during the second half of the season. Pittsburgh could choose to spend a midround pick to bring in a proven veteran, or could continue to roll with what it has while hoping that Watt's return will bolster the pass rush down the stretch.
Send Trubisky to Indianapolis
Barring another injury to Kenny Pickett, Trubisky appears destined to spend the remainder of the season on the sideline after being demoted midway through the season's fourth week. Trubisky played well in a relief role during the Steelers' Week 6 win over the Buccaneers. But the Steelers went right back to Pickett for this past Sunday night's game in Miami. Pickett had his moments in Miami, but his three interceptions -- including two on the Steelers' final two drives -- ultimately resulted in Pittsburgh scoring just 10 points in a six-point loss.
The Steelers are going to continue to ride with Pickett while living with the growing pains associated with having a rookie starting quarterback. Trubisky almost certainly will not be back with the Steelers in 2023, and while his presence as a backup is certainly a luxury the Steelers enjoy, they may be better off trading him now while elevating Mason Rudolph to the primary backup spot.
Pittsburgh would likely have options if it considered trading Trubisky before the deadline. The team that makes the most sense is the Colts after they recently benched Matt Ryan for Sam Ehlinger, a 2021 sixth-round pick that has never thrown a regular-season pass. Given their current situation (Indianapolis is one-and-a-half games out of first place in the AFC South), it's highly likely that the Colts would consider acquiring Trubisky with the thought of keeping their playoff hopes alive.
Like most trades, possible compensation may ultimately determine whether or not a deal involving the Colts and Trubisky is executed. It could get tricky if the Steelers ask for the Colts' 2023 third-round pick without offering a sweetener. However, Pittsburgh would likely be able to trade Trubisky and receive Indianapolis' fourth-round pick with no strings attached.
It's possible that the Steelers could acquire a player from the Colts in any trade involving Trubisky. One such player could be defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo, a second-year player who has yet to pan out in Indianapolis.
Deal Claypool for future picks, another WR
The Steelers are not expected to trade their 24-year-old wideout who has caught a team-high 17 passes over the past three weeks. Claypool is a valuable member of the offense who still has over a year remaining on rookie contract. He is a talented, affordable player who will likely continue to be part of Pickett's continued growth as a starting quarterback.
It's been reported that Christian McCaffrey from Carolina to San Francisco. It's hard to envision a team making such a trade for Claypool, who while talented is not yet a player of McCaffrey's caliber.would compel the Steelers to consider trading Claypool, similar to the recent trade that sent
But desperate teams do desperate things, so it's certainly possible that a team makes the Steelers an offer they can't refuse. If such an offer is placed on the table, the Steelers should listen and possibly take action. Such a trade would have to include multiple picks as well as a receiver that can replace Claypool in Pittsburgh's lineup.
The Broncos have two players who possibly fit the bill in Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. Jeudy, who like Claypool is a member of the 2020 draft class, is probably the only receiver possibly available who could be a straight-up trade for Claypool. While his numbers aren't as good as Claypool's, Jeudy didn't have the luxury of playing with a future Hall of Fame quarterback who was still playing at a relatively high level, like Claypool did during his first two seasons with Roethlisberger.
It would take more capital from Denver in a trade involving Hamler, another member of the 2020 draft class. While Hamler's numbers pale in comparison to Jeudy and Claypool, the former Penn State standout can also contribute as a kickoff and punt returner. And while Jeudy is still projected as a player with No.1 receiver potential, Hamler is more suited as a solid No. 3 option, which would more than fit the bill in Pittsburgh with Diontae Johnson and George Pickens already in place.
A quarterback could also be part of any trade involving the Steelers and Broncos. Trubisky would probably pose too big of a threat to Russell Wilson, but Mason Rudolph would make given Denver's lack of depth at quarterback. Rudolph would be clear upgrade over Brett Rypien, who completed just 52% of his throws in relief of Wilson during Denver's Week7 loss to the Jets.
There's also the possibility of the Steelers including a Broncos defender in any possible trade. Two players who would make sense here are linebacker Baron Browning and defensive tackle Mike Purcell. Browning is currently playing ahead of rookie second-round pick Nik Bonitto. Purcell is a nine-year veteran who is currently playing behind D.J. Jones. Both players could provide depth at key positions for the Steelers defense during the second half of the 2022 season.