On Friday, just before the news broke of JuJu Smith-Schuster re-signing with the Steelers, it was reported the team has given cornerback Steve Nelson permission to seek a trade. The news came as a bit of a shock to many Steelers fans, but with the news of Smith-Schuster returning, the Nelson situation could have sent a number of frustrated Steelers’ fans into an nonreturnable spiral of despair.
So what exactly happened to where the Steelers were willing to let their starting cornerback find his way out of town? While there have yet to be reports with any specifics, there are a number of possibilities which could have set this course of action into motion.
With this in mind, here are four possible factors of why Nelson may be looking to move on to another franchise. These are just my own speculation and what I could come up with in order to help make sense of the situation.
The contract must change
Perhaps the issue came with Nelson that both sides were not on the same page as to whether or not he should be playing out the final year of his deal or if this is a time for an extension. If this would be the case, I would assume it was the Steelers who would be looking to spread out some of the money and lower Nelson’s salary cap hit for the 2021 season. With the cornerback position holding two of the four highest salary cap numbers for the 2021 Steelers, it makes sense for the Steelers to at least want to lower someone’s number. Whether it be the Steelers or Nelson, there could be a difference in one party wanting a new deal now with the other simply wanting to play out the last year of the contract.
Differences in value
If both parties are indeed looking to extend Nelson‘s contract, it could be they are so far apart on the numbers the deal was not going to get done. While value comes more than just in the form of salary, it is a pretty good indication as to how are team prioritizes a player. If a rift has developed between the Steelers and Nelson, it could be based on his value from a contract standpoint. With a cornerback such as William Jackson III signing a three-year deal for more than $40 million on the free-agent market, perhaps Nelson feels he is more like a $13 million per season cornerback rather than the $8.5 million per year he signed two years ago. At the same time, the Steelers may not feel Nelson is in the top tier of the NFL as they have made it apparent he is not even their top choice at cornerback as that distinction belongs to Joe Haden. It may be these differences which have the two parties ready to part ways.
The Steelers feel they have options
If the Steelers felt Nelson was the only option they had at the position for 2021, they would be more likely to pony up the big dollars in the future in order to make sure he stays with the team. If the Steelers feel like there’s another viable option, perhaps saving the $8.25 million on the salary cap is more important than having Nelson or the team in 2021. While some have implied the next man up would be newly signed a cornerback Cameron Sutton followed by Justin Layne, it was undrafted rookie free agent James Pierre who appeared to pass Layne on the depth chart by the conclusion of the 2020 season. If the Steelers have the confidence in these players to replace Nelson, it may have simply been a situation where the Steelers were ready to move on.
Nelson doesn’t want to be here
When it comes to the notion of moving on, perhaps it was Nelson more than the Steelers who was ready for a change. Although nothing has been said publicly, perhaps Nelson is looking for a change of scenery and he’s simply not wanting to continue his career and Pittsburgh for one reason or another.
So there are four possibilities as to what may be going on between cornerback Steven Nelson and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It could be the situation has nothing to do with any of these ideas, or it could have a little bit to do with more than one of them. Either way, the situation is not looking as if it’s going to have a happy ending. There is still some hope as it’s not like the divorce papers have been signed, but it does appear Nelson has his belongings packed and is looking for somewhere else to move in.
So what do you think? Do you think these are the best possibility of what happened between Steven Nelson and the Pittsburgh Steelers? Or is there another possibility as to why the starting cornerback is seeking a trade? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.