Skip to main content
Presented by

Around the AFC North: Steelers Could Make a Splashy Trade for a Wide Receiver

Michigan wide receiver Roman Wilson (14) runs after a catch against Maryland in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
Michigan wide receiver Roman Wilson (14) runs after a catch against Maryland in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.

With the 2024 NFL Draft in the rear-view mirror, teams are assessing their remaining needs and making changes to the depth chart.

Here's what going on in the AFC North:

Pittsburgh Steelers: With Questions at Wide Receiver, a Trade Could Happen

The Steelers beefed up their offensive line in the NFL Draft, selecting offensive tackle Troy Fautanu in the first round and center Zach Frazier in the second round. But investing so much in the trenches left questions about their targets on the outside.

The Steelers drafted Roman Wilson in the third round, but he's seen as more of a slot weapon. That leaves George Pickens and Van Jefferson, who they inked in March and has just one season with more than 400 yards, as their current projected starters.

Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes said it would be "unfair" to expect that Wilson, who had a career-high 48 catches for 789 yards at Michigan, would be a rookie starter.

"I think that's why there's a lot of speculation right now about a move being made," Fittipaldo said on the North Shore Drive podcast.

The Steelers were linked to veteran Bengals free-agent receiver Tyler Boyd earlier in free agency, but Mark Koboly of The Athletic wrote that without a multi-year offer from the Steelers, it's "highly unlikely" to happen at this time. Several other free agent receivers (Odell Beckham Jr., Michael Gallup, DJ Chark) have been scooped up after the draft.

The latest is that the Steelers have reportedly made calls about the availability of Brandon Aiyuk and Cameron Sutton, but were "rebuffed." They also reportedly called the Seattle Seahawks about D.J. Metcalf, per Denver Broncos insider Benjamin Allbright.

Pittsburgh reportedly has more than $18 million in cap space, so there's flexibility to potentially make a splash.

Last week, the Steelers also declined to pick up the fifth-year option on 2021 first-round running back Najee Harris, even though he's had three 1,000-yard seasons. Harris has averaged only 3.9 yards per carry over his career while Jaylen Warren has averaged 5.1 over his two years.

Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow Is Back on the Field

Joe Burrow is back on the field following last year's season-ending wrist injury/surgery.

Burrow suffered the injury against the Ravens on Nov. 16 and the Bengals fell into last place in the AFC North at 9-8 after winning the division in back-to-back seasons.

Cincinnati's chances of returning to the playoffs hinge on Burrow's successful return from his torn right wrist ligament.

In other news, former Raven Geno Stone will have a starting spot in the Bengals secondary, as 2022 first-round pick Dax Hill is moving to cornerback, Head Coach Zac Taylor revealed in his post-draft news conference.

Hill, the younger brother of Ravens running back Justice Hill, was drafted out of Michigan and was primarily a slot cornerback.

"When I first came in, I wasn't in that role [of safety] at all," Hill said last week, per ESPN’s Ben Baby. "Stepping in and trying to make the most out of that, that was something that I had to get used to."

The Bengals gave up the second-most passing plays of 20 or more yards in the league last season. They have struggled to replace Jessie Bates III, who they failed to reach a contract extension on ahead of the 2021 season. They are hoping Stone is the answer.

Cleveland Browns: Deshaun Watson Trade Payments Are Complete

The Browns gave up six draft picks, including three first-round selections, for quarterback Deshaun Watson before the 2022 season. Plus, they gave him the first fully guaranteed mega contract.

Now the Browns' trade payment is complete, turning the page on one of the biggest deals in league history.

"I haven't thought about it that way or spent any time reflecting on it," Browns General Manager Andrew Berry said, via ESPN’s Daniel Oyefusi. "I really just look at it as, 'Hey, here are resources in a given year. How do we best apply them to the team to make it better in the short and long term?' So that's not something I really think about."

With the picks, the Texans have drafted 11 players and still have a 2025 second-round pick (via a trade with the Vikings). Included among the Texans picked with the Browns' selections are EDGE Will Anderson Jr. (the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year) and wide receiver Tank Dell.

Some of the players the Browns could have drafted had they not made the trade are Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton (2022); Steelers offensive tackle Broderick Jones, wide receiver Jordan Addison, cornerback Christian Gonzalez, or quarterback Will Levis (2023); and wide receivers Brian Thomas Jr. or Xavier Worthy (2024).

"The returns for the Browns are still undetermined," Oyefusi wrote. "Cleveland made the playoffs last season but did so without Watson, who underwent season-ending surgery on his throwing shoulder in November."

Related Content