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Why Joe Burrow’s contract extension is good news for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Steelers smiles prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on August 24, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow earned an absolute bag Thursday, officially agreeing to a five-year, $275 million extension to make him the highest-paid player in NFL history.

While that might not seem to mean much for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as they’ve surely expected Burrow would sign an extension to remain with Cincinnati long-term, it does put them in a unique position within the AFC North. Burrow’s deal officially makes Pittsburgh the last team in the AFC North with a quarterback on a rookie deal.

The advantages of having a quarterback on a rookie contract are significant, as quarterbacks have continued to shift the market with record-setting deals since

First was Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who signed a five-year, $230 million (and fully guaranteed) contract after the team acquired him from the Texans in early 2022. Then, there was Lamar Jackson, who received a record-setting deal of his own back in April, a five-year, $260 million contract. Now, there’s Burrow, once again resetting the market.

Meanwhile, Steelers QB Kenny Pickett is heading into his second season, having signed a four-year contract worth just over $14 million after being selected 20th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Steelers won’t be eligible to extend Pickett until he completes his third NFL season, should they choose to get him under a long-term deal early on. They also have the ability to pick up his fifth-year option thanks to his first-round selection in the draft, which gives them a bit more time to work some magic.

The edge this gives the Steelers is significant. Rather than investing a significant chunk of team cap space to fund the quarterback, the rookie contract affords Pittsburgh the ability to invest elsewhere — such as on the defense, with playmakers like T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith and Minkah Fitzpatrick. They can continue to build around him, affording the ability to sign a cornerstone offensive lineman, à la Isaac Seumalo.

This contract? It’s good news for Pittsburgh.