Ever since the end of Super Bowl LVIII, when the San Francisco 49ers lost 25-22 to the Kansas City Chiefs, there's been a cloud of uncertainty for wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Being one of the league's top pass catchers, Aiyuk made it well-known that he wanted the 49ers to extend him to a new long-term, lucrative contract. That has yet to happen, and now things have reached the point where a trade is looking more and more likely, with a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers as a possible trade candidate.

The relationship between Brandon Aiyuk and 49ers seems broken

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Washington Commanders during the second half at FedExField.
© Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Posted on his TikTok account recently, Aiyuk was speaking to Washington Commanders rookie quarterback Jayden Daniels and said, “They [49ers] said they don't want me back.”

That's about as far as the conversation went on the matter between the former Arizona State Sun Devils, as there was no further context given. Whether that means the 49ers ended all further negotiations about a new deal or that Aiyuk believes the team can't or won't match his intended terms for a new contract is unclear. Then again, this could just be a ploy by the Second-team All-Pro receiver to ramp up negotiations again. Either way, it does seem clear that there's strife between the two parties.

The 49ers are in a tough situation with Aiyuk. They most likely don't want to lose their talented receiver, but they also don't want to pay him north of his $25 million a year asking price either. The wide receiver market has exploded during this offseason, and the 49ers, if they did want to re-sign him, are behind the eight-ball now, as other teams like the Dolphins, Vikings, and Lions have set the bar and the price point astronomically high with the signings of their own receivers.

Plus, the 49ers seemed to have made their intentions well-known going back to the 2024 NFL Draft. With their first-round pick, they selected Florida wide receiver Ricky Pearsall at No. 31 overall, along with Arizona receiver Jacob Cowing in the fourth round at No. 135.

The Steelers trade offer to the 49ers

If it is indeed true that the two will not reach an agreement, then Aiyuk will most likely be finding himself a new home in the near future, with the Steelers being one of those teams toward the top as a potential landing spot.

The Steelers first and foremost provide something that the 49ers are not giving Aiyuk right now: want. The Steelers are coveting Aiyuk hard at the moment, according to Andrew Fillipponi.

“The Steelers REALLY like Brandon Aiyuk. They’ve discussed what a trade package would look like,” Fillipponi posted via his X account.

The Steelers have had one of the more active and notable offseasons of any team in the NFL this year. The basis of their offense has been completely restructured thanks to a new quarterback room that is now led by Russell Wilson and backup Justin Fields. However, it's now missing a top receiver after the team decided to trade Diontae Johnson to the Carolina Panthers for cornerback Donte Jackson.

Pittsburgh hasn't exactly done a lot to replace Johnson. They did add veterans Van Jefferson and Quez Watkins and drafted Michigan's Roman Wilson with their No. 84 overall pick. Wilson is probably the best option out of these additions but will just be a rookie. If the Steelers could add a guy like Aiyuk, pairing him with George Pickens, then they instantly become one of the best tandems in the league.

The question then becomes what could Pittsburgh offer San Francisco to make them want to make the move? Most like those at Fillipponi and Bleacher Report are suggesting at the very least a 2025 first-round pick, while the latter is also including tight end Darnell Washington in a package deal. While adding Washington as a complement of sorts to George Kittle, who has little behind him in terms of talent, may be tempting, that may not be the route the 49ers choose.

At the very least, the 49ers will most likely be asking for a first-round pick in next year's draft — and Aiyuk is definitely worth it. But going after a current Steelers roster member like Washington may not be the 49ers' first choice.

The 49ers, as much as they are trying to re-sign as many of their key players as possible, need to be looking heavily toward the future. The team is getting older, which means acquiring more draft picks probably makes more sense in this case for the future of the team. It would probably be difficult for San Francisco to sway Pittsburgh into two 2025 draft picks, but a later one, something like a second or third-round pick in 2026 might be just enough to make the deal happen.