Article By Kyle Eve
In the offseason, the Washington Commanders declined to pick up Chase Young’s fifth-year option. The decision signaled that Young’s NFL future could be elsewhere following the 2023-24 NFL season. Where he ends up is anyone’s guess. However, there’s one team that has been consistently whispered as a suitor for the talented defensive end’s services: the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Injuries and Flashes of Talent Have Defined Young’s Career To Date
Coming out of college, the Ohio State Buckeyes’ superstar was seen as a can’t-miss prospect with the potential to become the face of the league. Taken as the 2nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Young appeared to be the foundational piece to help turn the Washington Commanders into a Playoff contender.
His rookie season was filled with many highlights as Young finished with 7.5 sacks, 30 total tackles, four forced fumbles, and a defensive touchdown.
Unfortunately, Young’s rookie season would become his only full season to date, as the 24-year-old has played in just 13 total games since then. This includes his 2023 debut in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos.
Facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in Week 10 of the 2021 season, Young suffered a devastating injury where he tore his ACL and patellar tendon in his right knee. This injury would not only end his 2021 campaign, but it also cost Young most of the 2022 season as well. He was only able to play in three games.
Despite Washington declining Young’s fifth-year option, there was still optimism for his return to the field in 2023. Sadly, another injury cost Young almost the entire preseason and Week 1 of the regular season. Fortunately, the injury was just a stinger and he was able to play in Week 2.
In his return to the field, Young looked phenomenal with 1.5 sacks and a consistent pass rush that terrorized Denver quarterback Russell Wilson all game long. These were the first sacks for Young since prior to his knee injury.
More than anything, Young reminded everyone just how talented he is. Young also stirred up the rumor mill once again, as a buzz is growing over where he could end up in 2024. Not only are there pundits who feel that Young could end up in Pittsburgh, but real money NFL betting sites have the Steelers as one of the favorites to land the defensive end at +800 odds.
Young Would Look Great in The Black and Yellow
In June, the Steelers were reportedly interested in acquiring the former 1st round pick. At the time, the report speculated what a trade for Young could look like and how his $11 million salary could fit within the Steelers’ $16 million in cap space.
Additional sources estimated that the Steelers would also have to give up premium draft capital over the next two seasons to land Young in a trade.
As of late September, those scenarios are no longer a concern. Sure, there’s still a chance that Pittsburgh inquires about a trade this season. However, it’s more than likely that Washington allows the season to play out in order to best determine Young’s value.
If Young’s Week 2 performance against the Broncos is any indication, then the Commanders are going to be in a difficult position at the end of the season. Young appears to have regained his elite form and could have a monster year.
This would most likely make him too expensive to sign to a long-term deal or to franchise tag, especially since Washington also has to extend pass rusher Montez Sweat. Enter the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now, the Steelers are also facing cap challenges for the 2024 season. Currently, the Steelers are projected to be just under $655,000 in cap space next year. Fortunately, there are some moves that could make signing Young a real possibility.
The Steelers could cut players like Allen Robinson, which would reduce his $9 million cap hit next year. Furthermore, Pittsburgh could also extend players like Diontae Johnson and push the bulk of their salary off a few years.
More than likely, the biggest salary obstacle next year, is how best to restructure TJ Watt’s contract as he’s going to have a cap hit well over $30 million in 2024. These moves, and presumably others as well, could free up enough money to sign Young at an estimated going-rate of $20 million per season.
With Alex Highsmith getting his four-year, $68 million extension in July 2023, adding Young to the trio of Highsmith, Watt and Cam Heyward seems like a fantasy football dream come true. Yet, that fantasy could become a reality next year.
If Young becomes an unrestricted free agent, the Steelers could offer him the money, a superior defense to play on, and a bright future that could turn his career into a Hall of Fame one. It goes without saying, adding Young would make this defense the best in the NFL for the entirety of his deal.