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5 for Friday: Low-risk, high-reward total makeover

Of the 32 quarterbacks who finished the 2023 regular season as starting quarterbacks, five had won a Super Bowl in their career.

And it does not appear that one of those players, Joe Flacco, will be given an opportunity to start again in 2024.

The Steelers weren't going to be able to acquire Patrick Mahomes, Matthew Stafford or Aaron Rodgers this offseason. But they could acquire the other quarterback who has won a Super Bowl among the NFL's current group of starters, Russell Wilson.

And they could do so without having to give up any draft capital.

That is why the Steelers' move to sign Wilson made sense. When you look at what it cost in previous trades to acquire a quarterback – let alone a Super Bowl-winning quarterback – this was a no-brainer decision.

Acquiring Stafford from Detroit cost the Rams two first-round draft picks, a third-round draft pick and quarterback Jared Goff in 2021.

Last offseason, the Packers and Jets swapped first-round draft picks in 2023, with the Jets also getting a fifth-round selection in return for second and sixth-round picks in 2023 and what would turn out to be a second-round pick this year for Rodgers to go from Green Bay to New York.

And that doesn't even take into consideration the new contracts the Rams and Jets had to give their new quarterbacks.

For the Steelers, acquiring Wilson cost them … nothing. At least nothing in terms of draft picks.

The Steelers had consistently said they would bring in competition for Kenny Pickett for the 2024 season. Adding Wilson certainly did that. And after Pickett was traded last Friday to the Eagles and Justin Fields was acquired the next day from Chicago for a conditional 2025 draft pick, Omar Khan had completely revamped the Steelers' quarterback depth chart.

And the grand cost was acquiring Wilson, Fields, a 2024 third-round draft pick this season from Philadelphia and two seventh-round picks in 2025, for Pickett, a 2024 fourth-round draft pick and a conditional sixth-round pick in 2025.

In effect, the Steelers got two bites at the quarterback apple without giving up any draft capital.

That's a significant move at a very low cost in overall capital.

In the two seasons since Ben Roethlisberger retired following the 2021 season, the Steelers have gotten a combined 25 touchdown passes from their quarterbacks.

There is no doubt that they need to get better than an average of 12.5 touchdown passes out of the quarterback position in 2024.

Yet despite that paltry production in terms of touchdown passes the past two seasons, the Steelers won nine games in 2022 and 10 in 2023.

Wilson had 26 touchdown passes in 15 games last season. Fields had 16 in 13 games.

But on the other side of that equation is that Steelers quarterbacks also threw just nine interceptions as a group in 2023. They also fumbled just six times as a group. Whether it was Pickett, Mason Rudolph or even, to a lesser degree, Mitch Trubisky, the Steelers quarterbacks valued the football.

Wilson had eight interceptions in 2023 in his 15 games. His career interception rate of 1.9 is tied for eighth-lowest in NFL history. But he did fumble 10 times in 2023.

Fields had nine interceptions in his 13 games while also fumbling 10 times. His career interception rate is 3.1 per 100 passes.

So, both Wilson and Fields have the promise of helping the Steelers score more points in 2024 – which was an obvious goal.

The key for the Steelers will be limiting the turnovers that come with some of those big plays, finding a balance that leads to additional wins in 2025.

• Trading away a commodity such as Diontae Johnson, as the Steelers also did last week, is never easy. He's been a Pro Bowl player. He was an All-Pro as a rookie return man.

But the Steelers have shown in the past that they're not afraid to create a hole in their lineup for the long-term good.

Witness the trade of former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes in 2010 to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick.

At that time they traded Holmes, he was coming off a season in which he had caught 79 passes for 1,248 yards and five touchdowns. It was a career year for the former first-round draft pick.

The trade left the Steelers somewhat thin at wide receiver. They still had Hines Ward, who was coming off what would be his final 1,000-yard season, and Mike Wallace was coming off a promising 39-catch, 756-yard rookie season. But beyond those two and Holmes, the Steelers didn't have another wide receiver catch more than one pass in 2009.

But the Steelers weren't done adding to the team. They swapped that fifth-round pick they got from the Jets with Arizona for a sixth-round pick and cornerback Bryant McFadden, a former second-round pick of the team in 2005.

The Steelers then selected Maurkice Pouncey in the first round of the draft and linebacker Jason Worilds in the second round. In the third round, they selected wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and then took Antonio Brown in the sixth round. Veteran Antwaan Randle El returned to the team as a free agent that offseason, as well.

Wallace exploded with a 1,257-yard season in 2010, while Sanders caught 28 passes, Randle El 22 and Brown 16. Sanders and Brown also were key components in the postseason that year, as the Steelers advanced to the Super Bowl. McFadden started all 16 games for the Steelers in 2010.

In acquiring cornerback Donte Jackson, an expected starter opposite Joey Porter Jr., and a sixth-round draft pick from the Panthers in return for Johnson and a seventh-round pick, the Steelers simply cut out the middle man.

• The Steelers are one of six teams that have proposed shifting the NFL's trade deadline, which is currently Week 8 of the regular season.

The Steelers have proposed a by-law change that would move the deadline back to Week 9, while the Browns, Jets, Lions, Eagles and Commanders have suggested moving it to Week 10.

The proposals will be discussed and perhaps voted on at the annual spring meeting in Orlando, Fla., which begins Sunday. To pass, 75 percent of the league's owners would have to vote to approve the change.

With the league shifting to a 17-game schedule in 2021, it only makes sense to move the trade deadline back at least one week so that teams have at least half of the season in which to make moves.

The Steelers dealt with issues at inside linebacker in 2023 that perhaps could have been solved in a different fashion had the trade deadline been even one week later.

Linebacker Kwan Alexander suffered a season-ending injury in Week 8 last season, while Cole Holcomb also went down with an injury that ended his season the following week. Unfortunately for the Steelers, when Holcomb was lost for the remainder of the season, the trade deadline had passed.

With no pathway to acquire a player via a trade, the Steelers used a variety of players at inside linebacker the remainder of the season, including signing veteran Myles Jack out of retirement.

Other proposed rule changes that will be discussed next week include one by the Eagles to eschew the onside kick and allow teams to attempt a fourth-and-20 play from its own 20-yard line. Philadelphia proposed a similar change in recent years that hasn't garnered much support.

Also proposed by the Lions is a rule that would protect a team's ability to protect a third challenge following one successful challenge, while the Colts have suggested a change that would allow a coach or replay official to challenge any penalty called inside of the final two minutes of a half.

Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

NFL special teams coordinators through the competition committee have suggested major changes to kickoffs, including allowing teams to only attempt an onside kick in the fourth quarter if they are trailing; allowing kick coverage teams to set up at the opposing 40 with the receiving team setting up at the 35; and teams getting the ball at the 35-yard line if the ball is kicked into the end zone in the air and at the 20 if it lands short and rolls into the end zone.

• The competition committee, on which Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin sits, has suggested some rule tweaks, as well.

One would be allowing replay to review when there is clear and obvious visual evidence that the game clock expired before any snap.

Another is to eliminate the "hip-drop" tackle.

The hip-drop tackle is defined as a defender grabbing the runner with both hands or wrapping the runner with both arms; and (b) unweights himself by swiveling and dropping his hips and/or lower body, landing on and trapping the runner's leg(s) at or below the knee.

A third would be to expand the crack-back block prohibition to players who go in motion and move beyond the center to block a defender at or below the knee.

• The 2021 NFL Draft produced five first-round quarterbacks, with Trevor Lawrence going first to Jacksonville, Zach Wilson going second to the Jets, Trey Lance going third to San Francisco, which had traded up to take him, Justin Fields going 11th to the Bears and Mac Jones going 15th to the Patriots.

Wilson was benched in favor of, well, anyone before the Jets traded for Rodgers. Lance was dealt to the Cowboys last year. Jones was traded to Jacksonville last week by the Patriots for a late-round draft pick.

The Bears traded Fields to the Steelers last week, as well, meaning the only quarterback still with the team that selected him is Lawrence.

It just goes to show, selecting quarterbacks in the draft is as inexact a science as there is in the NFL.