Dwayne Haskins and Mason Rudolph are strictly backup options at this point and Mitchell Trubisky is a No. 2 overall pick who isn’t what anyone would call a game-changer.
Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert isn’t committed to handing the keys to Trubisky, but he was the fiscally responsible choice. All options are on the table still, especially drafting Ben’s replacement.
“Anything we did in free agency will not preempt us from taking another player at any of those positions,” Colbert said, via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “That’s why coach [Mike Tomlin] and I have been casting a pretty big net throughout this process. … Is that saying we’re taking one? Possibly. We just want to make sure we’re covered with that class.”
Colbert and Tomlin have attended pro day workouts for several of this year’s top prospects and the GM told NBC Sports that the team decided against going the high-priced free agent route for a quarterback because they didn’t want to trade any draft capital.
The 2022 NFL draft isn’t considered a tremendous one for quarterback talent, but there are some signal callers with high ceilings.
Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Malik Willis (Liberty), Matt Corral (Ole Miss), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati) and Sam Howell (North Carolina) are considered the elite passers in this year’s crop.
Pickett, Willis, Corral and Ridder all impressed at their pro days, and Steelers reps were on hand to see Pickett and Willis, who reports say are possible selections for Pittsburgh at pick No. 20.
Mike Tomlin Keeping His QB Search Close To Vest
Mike Tomlin, who was stuck in Palm Beach and the owners meeting this week, was asked if he was disappointed that he missed the North Carolina pro day.
The Carolina Panthers, considered just as QB-desperate as the Steelers, didn’t send head coach Matt Rhule or general manager Scott Fitterer, but director of player personnel Pat Stewart and college scouting director Cole Spencer made the trip to see the Tar Heels’ all-time leading passer.
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 28, 2022
“We have a definitive business model that we adhere to,” Tomlin told reporters. “And we can’t be worried about keeping up with the Joneses.
“I’m sorry I can’t be in Chapel Hill for that one, but I’ve been impressed by the depth and talents of that (top quarterback) group”
Tomlin didn’t totally dismiss Howell as a possible draft pick of the Steelers, but the absence of a Steelers rep at his pro day suggests that Howell is not rated in Pittsburgh’s top three quarterback prospects.
The three teams most desperate to land a franchise quarterback in this year’s draft are the Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks. The Steelers and Seahawks lost future Hall of Fame leaders in retired Big Ben and Russell Wilson (traded to the Denver Broncos).
The Desperate 3
The Steelers (9-7-1 in 2021) are conducting business as usual and not exposing any of their plans to the media. Pittsburgh’s in a tricky position with the 20th pick. It’s just late enough in the first round that Pickett and Willis could be off the board by then if teams feel a need to rush on quarterbacks.
The multi-talented Willis’ name has surfaced often in connection to the Steelers. If Tomlin did draft the Liberty star, Willis would automatically become the most athletic and electrifying Steelers quarterback since Kordell Stewart.
Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. thinks it’s a strong possibility that the Steelers might even move up to make sure they secure Willis. The fact that Tomlin doesn’t seem to be seriously considering second options indicates that Pittsburgh may be ready to go all in on securing Willis come draft day, with the thought that Pickett, Matt Corral or maybe even Howell might be another option.
Kiper says the pressure from within the division with the Cleveland Browns acquiring all-world quarterback Deshaun Watson is at a fever pitch and has the Steelers organization panicking — on the low.
“Deshaun Watson becomes a Cleveland Brown, are you kidding me?” Kiper said. “‘And we’re sitting there with Mitchell Trubisky?’”
According to Todd McShay, Willis’ Liberty coach said of all the teams, the Steelers seem to “really love Malik.”
This particular quarterback pick could either set the franchise up for 15 more years of success under Tomlin or be the beginning of a dark period in Pittsburgh Steelers history. Longtime GM Kevin Colber is stepping down after this last draft with two Super Bowl victories under his belt. Kiper says Colber is “trying to leave this organization with its quarterback of the future.”
Carolina Panthers (Sixth overall pick, 5-12, 17.9 ppg in 2021 [29th in NFL] in 2021)
Kenny Pickett (4,319 yards passing, 42 TD, 7 INT, 81.2 QBR, Second Team All-American 2021) is high on Carolina’s list, but Mel Kiper believes the sixth overall pick might be too high to draft the 24-year-old rookie who’s still a project and more suitable for the middle to lower first round of the draft.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule had a long conversation on pro day with Pickett, and they had dinner, so anything is possible, but he looks like he fits what the Panthers are looking for in a QB.
Carolina still has Sam Arnold after picking up his fifth-year option, so whoever Carolina selects will be in a QB battle.
Seattle Seahawks (Ninth overall p[ick, 7-10 in 2021)
The Seahawks need a replacement for Russell Wilson, and the currents options, Drew Lock and Geno Smith, aren’t the caliber of signal caller that Seattle fans have been used to in the last decade with Danger Russ at the helm.
As backups they are capable, but as long as they are babysitting the position Seattle won’t be considered contenders. Strong-armed Matt Corral or Desmond Ridder, who helped the Cincinnati Bearcats become the first Group of Five school to ever play in the College Football Playoffs, are strong options for Seattle.
Both have untapped talent, and draft experts say the Seahawks could trade down, pick up an extra pick or two and still get either quarterback.
The Washington Commanders who have the No. 11 pick and New Orleans Saints (18th pick) are the only other two franchises who stand between the Steelers and their QB of choice. Washington just invested in Carson Wentz and the Saints have re-upped with a confident and more mature Jameis Winston, who’s thrown for over 5,000 yards in a season.
The Steelers have something up their sleeves, but it’s pretty obvious that no one is going to get a true understanding of the franchise’s intentions until draft day.