Early Tuesday morning, NFL Network Insider’s Ian Rapoport tweeted a post by Chicago Bears LB Roquan Smith officially requesting a deal from the team. According to Smith, the Bears’ front office refused to negotiate with him “in good faith,” stating that the team did not value his contributions as a player and captain in the locker room up to this point for the level of play he has shown in his first four seasons in the NFL.
Since being drafted to eighth overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, Smith has accumulated 524 tackles, 14 sacks, mandatory recovery stumbles, 17 pass deflections, five interceptions and a defensive touchdown as a two-time All-Pro (2020, 2021) team.
Given his commercial demand and his pedigree as one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, many Steelers fans would probably wonder if Pittsburgh would have any interest in pursuing a player of Smith’s caliber should he be made available via trade.
From the standpoint of plausibility, the Steelers could have investigated what the Smith deal might have entailed from its conclusion. It’s no secret that LB Devin Bush hasn’t lived up to expectations yet in his fourth season after Pittsburgh turned down his fifth-year option, having to prove it in 2022 in order to consider re-signing after the season. With Smith, you’ll have a proven commodity in a position that is only on the rise, having hit 25 years off the current season. His addition to the quarterback along with Miles Jack along with other star defenders Pittsburgh has gone up front and will go a long way in bolstering a defense looking to return to the top spot in 2022.
While Pittsburgh has not been a team known to break away from early venture capital, their recent history suggests that they would be willing to do so to get a talented player just as they did when they replaced first-round pick Minka Fitzpatrick in 2019. They, too, have shown their willingness to make a big move. To address a major situation of need such as when they traded ten points to pick Bush in the 2019 NFL Draft, separating the second and third-round picks to make the move. If the team is not convinced that Bosch is the answer in the long term or in 2022, Pittsburgh could at least see Smith as a valuable asset to explore.
From a probability standpoint, the likelihood that Pittsburgh will do more than send a phone call to Chicago about Smith’s availability is low. As previously mentioned, Pittsburgh appears poised to enter the 2022 season with Bush and Jack, as both starting ILBs with Robert Spillane will likely get a fair amount of run as Bush’s primary backup. With the team expressing a fair amount of optimism at both Bosch and Spilan over the holiday period along with Brian Flores to get the most out of the ILB unit, the need to follow Smith may be low on the totem pole for Pittsburgh.
Another big problem Pittsburgh would have if they thought of trading for Smith is the fact that the guy wants to get paid. That’s right, and while Pittsburgh has the potential to create plenty of room for a metaphoric extension with Smith, they’ve just signed Fitzpatrick, Chris Boswell and Deontay Johnson on lucrative deals over the past two months. They also signed Jack this off-season for a two-year deal worth $8 million per season, making it difficult to justify trading Smith’s excellent draft capital and turning around and making him one of the best non-ball players in the game.
In terms of player talent and personality, I want nothing more than to see a Rochuan Smith suit wearing black and gold alongside Miles Jack to solidify the Pittsburgh Seven’s introduction over the next several years. However, there are many hoops the team has to jump through to make this dream a reality, making such opportunities likely unrealistic at this time. Pittsburgh showed an affinity for the players they loved in the pre-draft process, and while they didn’t have Smith on the initial draft visit, they were well represented on his Pro Day in 2018, knowing that it would long ago be gone by the time they reached their pick. The first is ranked 28th overall.
As much as I hate to see it, a team like the Baltimore Ravens would make a lot of sense in following Smith due to their lack of depth and proven game-making in their ILB room right now, which could lead to Pittsburgh snipers once again. A player that many fans will covet. Time will tell if the Bears and Smith can resolve their differences, but as we sit here today, another talented young defender is looking to change the landscape in the ever-changing environment of the NFL.