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2021 Offseason Questions: Will Steelers Trade Steven Nelson, And What Would They Get?

Steven Nelson

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Will the Steelers trade Steven Nelson, and what will they get for him?

The surprise news of the Steelers re-signing wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to a one-year contract elicited the range of responses from elation to frustration and anger. But that wasn’t nearly as surprising as the report that the Steelers had granted permission for cornerback Steven Nelson to seek a trade.

While we don’t know the full details of what has led us up to this point, we can reasonably deduce that the impetus for the schism is, as it usually is, money. The Steelers don’t have cap space, and aren’t looking for extensions, let alone raises right now. Nelson wants what’s rightfully his after two years of quality play for one of the top secondaries in football.

Though it will mean the Steelers lose a quality starter, both sides get something out of this, as Pittsburgh very much needs—or at least very much can use—the cap space they would save by getting Nelson off the books, clearing about $7.5 million after displacement, which they could even use to sign a cheaper cornerback option.

It’s not guaranteed that Pittsburgh will find a trading partner for a non-Pro Bowl starter who is somewhat under the radar and is on the last year of his deal for more than $8 million. Even if they do find somebody, there’s a reasonable chance the compensation won’t be great—almost surely nothing higher than a fourth-rounder. But only time will tell for sure.

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