2024 Fantasy Football Fallout: Russell Wilson Signs With the Pittsburgh Steelers

Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks

The NFL legal tampering period opened up on Monday, but thanks to the Broncos releasing Russell Wilson last week, he and the Steelers agreed to terms late Sunday night. The twelve year veteran enters a quarterback room with Kenny Pickett and (hopefully) Mason Rudolph, on a playoff team one year ago. The Steelers hope that Russell Wilson can lead them to double-digit victories, but what of fantasy managers, what should they expect the development of Russell Wilson signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers?

First, let’s start with Russell Wilson, who spent the last two seasons in Denver with Nathaniel Hackett and Sean Payton. Those two seasons were two of the worst of Wilson’s career, as he had his lowest and third-lowest yards per pass attempt of his career, and just 219 passing yards per game, down from his 235 per game in Seattle. Wilson also led the NFL in pressured throws, according to PlayerProfiler. Part of this had to do with the offensive line (Wilson’s 3.67 sacks per game in 2022 and 3 sacks per game in 2023 were the worst and second-worst of his career). Unfortunately, that seemed to be mostly on Wilson, as his 2.7 seconds pocket time, and 25.5% pressure rate were both the best of his career, meaning that his sacks were pretty much his fault; the line was giving him plenty of time.

Luckily, Wilson offset this with good rushing numbers, averaging just over 20 yards per game in the last couple of seasons, which was a bump up from his 2021 campaign. Unfortunately, however, Wilson peaked at QB17 last season, after finishing as QB19 the year before. Unfortunately, that will likely be the ceiling for Wilson this season, mostly because the Broncos’ offensive line was so much better than the Steelers’ line, as the former ranked eighth in pass block win rate, and the latter ranked seventeenth. 

As for the weapons in the passing game, this should provide a bump up for both Diontae Johnson and George Pickens. Both Pickens and Johnson had a catchable pass rate under 69% last season (nice), and Wilson’s was north of 75%. He was better on the deep balls last season than all the Steelers’ quarterbacks, as Pickett had a 61.2 QB rating on his 29 deep ball attempts, Mitchell Trubisky rocked a 37.8 rating on his 15, and Rudolph completed 4-of-9 passes over 20 air yards for a 128.2 QB rating. Compile that all together, and you have 53 pass attempts for a 66.0 QB rating. Wilson, comparatively, finished with a 116.7 rating on his 60 deep balls last year. This means good things for George Pickens, who had the ninth-highest average depth of target among the 69 receivers with more than 75 targets last season.

All-in-all, this is a marginal move in terms of overall fantasy value. This isn’t going to vault either Diontae Johnson or George Pickens into must-draft status, as they are already borderline WR3s by ADP (WR37 for Pickens and WR44 for Johnson). Johnson doesn’t really move, and given the deep ball skills of Wilson, I would be okay with Pickens around WR30 to WR35. Not too much is going to change for the Steelers, but I will bump up Pickens on the potential big play boost.

About Jeff Krisko

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