Pittsburgh Steelers Infatuated With Malik Willis | After Years Of Traditional QB Play, Willis Is The Dual-Threat Mike Tomlin’s All-In On

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAR 02: Malik Willis #QB16 of the Liberty Flames speaks to reporters during the NFL Draft Combine at the Indiana Convention Center on March 2, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
The Pittsburgh Steelers‘ infatuation with Liberty quarterback Malik Willis hasn’t gone unnoticed throughout the entire process leading up to the NFL draft on April 28-30. Tomlin and other team brass traveled to Willis’ pro day and watched him light it up. The night before he and Tomlin (Omar Epps‘ body double) had dinner together.

 

Willis was genuinely shocked at how down-to-earth Tomlin was and said in a tweet, “He’s a normal dude eating his chicken wings over there. I’m like ‘Mike Tomlin eats chicken wings?’

Obviously the two established a sound rapport during their brief time spent together, and Tomlin’s been trying to play it cool, but it’s common knowledge that he covets the Liberty star who established himself as one of the most exciting signal callers in college football last season. 

 

 Steelers Want Willis With First Round Pick

When Tomlin looks around the AFC North, he sees teams with dual-threat quarterbacks. The Ravens have an NFL MVP in Lamar Jackson. Cleveland just traded for the dynamic Deshaun Watson, who at some point will be back on the gridiron after his 2021 season was hijacked due to legal issues.

Then you have Joe Burrow, who just led the Bengals to within 45 yards of a Super Bowl win his second season. Tomlin feels the pressure to get this right, and with the highest-paid defense in the league ($124 million) the Steelers should be able to win some ugly games by keeping the score down.

 Mike Tomlin Recreating Offensive Identity

Tomlin is trying to recreate the Steelers’ entire offensive philosophy of the past two decades by bringing in a quarterback who is the complete opposite of the plodding, pocket-passing, but highly-effective Roethlisberger. Willis would be lucky to have half the career that the future Hall of Famer has had with the Black & Gold, but his mobility is in line with what the quarterbacks of the NFL’s most explosive offenses are producing.

Since Jackson arrived in B-More, the blueprint for success has been a hard-nosed defense, tough running game and a dynamic quarterback who can beat you with his arm and legs. The Browns are building their team the same way, and the Bengals just used that formula to surprisingly reach the Super Bowl.

 

Kenny Pickett vs. Malik Willis 

Many analysts and football insiders think that the Steelers should draft Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett, who they’ve seen play in college at Heinz Field. But he doesn’t really fit the scheme Tomlin and the Steelers brass are trying to implement.

One red flag is Pickett’s small hands, which led to a ton of fumbles. The frigid cold weather in Pittsburgh doesn’t help and ball security will become even more challenging in the NFL. Willis has bigger hands and a stronger arm, plus he’s more athletic and can make the off-schedule throws with ease. Tomlin craves a QB like Willis. He’s never had one. Willis kicks the entire offense into another gear. And with several former starters on the roster, Willis will have some time to develop.

 

ESPN Draft Analyst Todd McShay Calls It A Perfect Marriage

On a recent episode episode of “First Draft,” respected NFL analyst Todd McShay said he believes a Steelers/Willis connection is a perfect marriage.

 “Malik Willis brings that running element. You already have a strong run game. You’ve got a really good defense. So, why not bring in the quarterback in this class, the one quarterback that legitimately can give you a numbers advantage in the run game, a lot like we’ve seen with Lamar Jackson in Baltimore? You know, that’s the kind of play that I suspect that they’re looking to get with Mike Tomlin coming out and saying, we need more mobility at the position. So, Malik Willis, makes sense.”

 

 

Willis Possesses A Unique Skill Set: Mobility, Arm Strength, Deep Ball Accuracy

During his time at Liberty, Willis flashed his dynamic arm strength. At other times he demonstrated the ability to throw off schedule. He also showed the ability to put all three together on the same play, eluding rushers, using his feet to buy time and then launching the football 60-65 yards downfield on a line. The throws are often referred to as “frozen ropes.”

 

Malik Willis To The Steelers?  

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for their next franchise signal caller following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger after 18 years of Hall of Fame quarterback play. Now head coach Mike Tomlin is tasked with trying to find a guy to lead his offense.

 While the NFL draft is full of smoke and mirrors, aka smoke screens, to try and keep teams off guard as it pertains to one another, the Steelers aren’t shy about wanting Willis. The franchise isn’t afraid to let the other 31 teams know it.