Steelers Predicted to Consider Adding ‘Rocket-Armed’, ‘High-IQ’ QB

Mike Tomlin Michael Penix

Getty CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson predicted head coach Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers to draft quarterback Michael Penix Jr. at No. 20 overall.

While rumors that the Pittsburgh Steelers could trade for a quarterback such as Justin Fields are heating up, mock draft experts are still connecting the Steelers to signal callers in the first round. In his newest mock draft on February 12, CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson projected the Steelers to target Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr.

“The Steelers hired a new OC in Arthur Smith, which is good news for this offense,” Wilson wrote. “Still, if they don’t think Kenny Pickett is the long-term solution, Penix Jr. could (should?) be a consideration here.”

Pro Football Network’s Ian Cummings described Penix as a “rocket-armed left-handed thrower with elite drive velocity and high-end arm elasticity.” He added that Penix is also a “high-IQ passer who gathers information pre-snap and processes the field without delay.”

During the 2023 season, Penix completed 65.4% of his passes for 4,903 yards with 36 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He averaged a career-best 8.8 yards per attempt.

Penix also led Washington to an undefeated regular season, Pac-12 championship and National championship game appearance.

Michael Penix Has Matthew Stafford Potential?

As the draft process continues to unfold over the next two months, players with first-round grades will begin to receive comparisons to already established NFL players.

Cummings had one already for Penix. The draft analyst compared the traits of the Washington quarterback to Super Bowl champion signal caller Matthew Stafford.

“At his peak, and if he’s able to stay healthy, Penix could be a Matthew Stafford-type of passer at the NFL level,” Cummings wrote. “He’s a quality pocket operator with functional mobility who can carve defenses at all levels with his velocity, angle freedom, surgical vision, and predatory passing instincts, and he’s a competitor his teammates can rally around.”

There will be one major difference between Stafford and Penix. The Detroit Lions drafted Stafford at No. 1 overall in the 2009 NFL draft. Penix will not even be a top 10 pick, as he’s one of the most polarizing 2024 prospects. If his naysayers more accurately portray his draft stock than his supporters, Penix could potentially slip out of the first round.

Still, getting a quarterback who has Stafford potential at No. 20 overall is an appealing proposition.

Stafford has experienced a successful 15-year career in the NFL, throwing for 56,047 yards and 357 touchdowns. He’s made two Pro Bowls and led the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl title during the 2021 season.

QB Rumors Swirling Around the Pittsburgh Steelers

Wilson predicting the Steelers to draft Penix, which the CBS Sports analyst also did on December 19, is hardly the only quarterback rumor floating around in Pittsburgh.

On February 11, NFL Network’s insiders reported that quarterback Mason Rudolph “has indicated” that he desires a fresh start and intends to sign with a different team this offseason.

One day later, the Steelers released fellow quarterback Mitch Trubisky. That means if Rudolph is not returning, Pittsburgh could add one or two quarterbacks in free agency.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter floated three possibilities while appearing on The Pat McAfee Show on February 12.

“We know Pittsburgh is going to go out and get some type of quarterback. Whether that’s Ryan Tannehill. Whether that’s Russell Wilson. Whether that’s Justin Fields,” Schefter said on the Pat McAfee Show. “Justin Fields, I know Mike Tomlin’s a big fan of Justin Fields. We’ll keep that in mind during the offseason and the coming weeks.”

The Steelers would have to acquire Fields in a trade from the Chicago Bears. It’s highly unlikely the Steelers will both trade for Fields and draft Penix. In fact, it may require the No. 20 overall pick to land Fields in a trade.

But one thing is clear — the media is calling for the Steelers to upgrade its quarterback room around Kenny Pickett. Any means of doing that, including drafting Penix at No. 20 overall, is on the table.

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