The Steelers should investigate what it will take to pry Deshaun Watson away from the Texans, but they should only acquire him via a bargain trade.
Ben Roethlisberger’s declining skills mean the Steelers need to be on the lookout for their quarterback of the future. That makes a trade for Deshaun Watson an interesting thought exercise for Pittsburgh’s front office.
At the moment, the Texans are continuing to value Watson as if he’s one of the best quarterbacks in football. On the field, that’s probably still true. However, Watson’s bevy of off-the-field issues should drastically lower Houston’s trade demands for the embattled signal-caller.
If the Texans are going to hold firm with their reported demands of multiple first-round picks in any Watson trade then the Steelers should quickly hang up the phone on any potential trade talks. Instead, Pittsburgh should be looking to test Houston’s resolve with a cut-rate deal right ahead of this year’s NFL Trade Deadline.
So what should the Steelers actually offer?
The Texans aren’t going to engage in any meaningful trade talks without the inclusion of at least one first-round pick. The Steelers would be wise to try to push that pick into future years when, in theory, Watson can help them on the field. If Houston pushes back and demands Pittsburgh’s first-rounder in 2022 then the Steelers should reluctantly relent.
2022 first-round pick
2023 third-round pick
That’s the only first-rounder that should be in the deal though. The Texans should then be forced to choose between a young player or two or some additional draft compensation in later rounds. One player Pittsburgh should look to include is James Washington. He’s a talented wide receiver who needs a fresh start. He’s still young enough to appeal to Houston and could easily be included as a deal sweetener.
Throw in an additional third-round pick in a future draft and you’ve got the makings of a deal that the Texans should consider ahead of this year’s trade deadline. It’s not the massive haul they want to use to kick-start their rebuild, but it’s enough to convince a rational front office to move on from the Watson saga. One first-rounder, future third, and James Washington probably isn’t enough for the Steelers to buy Watson on the cheap, but it’s the best offer Kevin Colbert and his front office should make.
Why is Deshaun Watson not playing?
It’s a bit strange to hear NFL talking heads refer to the Watson trade rumors — or the fact that the Texans are holding him out of games — as though it’s purely about football. There could be a case to be made that Houston is holding the most valuable trade chip in franchise history out of games so that he doesn’t get hurt, but the only cases that are being made around Watson are the twenty-plus civil lawsuits accusing the Texans quarterback of sexual assault and sexual misconduct.
The NFL has not placed Watson on the Commissioner’s Exempt List — which is typically the move in cases like this. Houston has been holding Watson out of games on their own free will, which the league has apparently deemed enough at the moment and therefore haven’t placed him on any exemption lists.