Steelers reportedly backed into a corner thanks to Mike Williams, Brandon Aiyuk

The Pittsburgh Steelers could turn to the WR trade market with the free agency pool drying up.

Omar Khan, Pittsburgh Steelers
Omar Khan, Pittsburgh Steelers / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers' greatest position of need at the moment is wide receiver. Omar Khan and the front office dealt Diontae Johnson to the Carolina Panthers, leaving the WR room a tad barren around George Pickens.

While there was an initial expectation that Pittsburgh would target free agents, the available pool has dried up quickly. With the likes of Mike Evans and Mike Williams off the board, Pittsburgh could end up turning to the trade market, according to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"I do think the Steelers are doing their due diligence on the WR trade market. They have to do that given that the WR room currently consists of George Pickens, Calvin Austin and Van Jefferson."

Fittpaldo responded "no" when asked if there is any substance to the Pittsburgh-Justin Jefferson rumors. But, the Post-Gazzette's Gerry Dulac does believe the Steelers are looking for a "bigger catch."

Steelers searching trade market for 'bigger fish' at WR

The obvious focal point for Pittsburgh fans at the moment is San Francisco 49ers wideout Brandon Aiyuk, who enters the final year of his contract without an extension from the Niners. While the financial ramifications of trading for Aiyuk and subsequently extending him could get complicated, the Steelers have $15 million in cap space and the motivation to contend.

Another potential option is Cincinnati Bengals speedster Tee Higgins, who is also entering the final year of his contract — also without an extension. Aiyuk was the more productive WR last season, but Higgins is a year younger with more upside tied to his elite physical tools.

As for the Jefferson buzz, we cannot count out the possibility entirely. With the Minnesota Vikings on the verge of a rebuild, it's hard to justify paying Jefferson the exorbitant contract he deserves. What's the point of dropping a historic bag on Jefferson's doorstep if you're going to have Sam Darnold throwing him the football? Maybe the outlook is rosier with Drake Maye or J.J. McCarthy, but even then, Jefferson probably doesn't want to wait for a rookie QB to figure it out.

The Steelers have the trade ammo and the motivation. Russell Wilson and Justin Fields aren't great QBs, and frankly, Arthur Smith's egalitarian offense would probably underuse Jefferson. But, the Steelers have never been below-.500 during the Mike Tomlin era and Tomlin is starting to feel a faint heat beneath his seat for the first time in almost two decades. There is a mandate for this Steelers team to win — and win big, exceeding the seemingly unbreakable first-round ceiling Pittsburgh rammed into last season.

If the Steelers don't trade for a WR, there is one more potential solution: the NFL Draft. The Steelers have the No. 20 pick in the first round, with a deep WR class that could play into Omar Khan's hands. There are options, but the draft guarantees far less than trading for an established star.

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