Steelers Predicted to Grab ‘Polarizing’ QB With Deep ‘Attacking Mentality’

Kenny Pickett Michael Penix Jr.

Getty The Ringer predicted the Pittsburgh Steelers to target quarterback Michael Penix Jr. in its latest NFL 2024 mock draft.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been repeatedly linked to quarterbacks such as Justin Fields, Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins this offseason. But mock draft experts have also routinely named the Steelers a landing spot for quarterbacks in the 2024 NFL draft such as Washington’s Michael Penix Jr.

On February 27, The Ringer projected the Steelers to select Penix at No. 20 overall in the first round of the 2024 draft.

“The Steelers have publicly stated their support for Kenny Pickett, but there just isn’t much evidence that Pickett is the answer for this team,” The Ringer wrote. “Penix will be a polarizing figure in this draft, and some will view this as a reach, but the former Washington star brings a quick, decisive style and an aggressive mentality to push the ball downfield to create explosive plays—variables that differentiate him from what the team has gotten with Pickett.”

A scouting report from The Ringer’s Danny Kelly hyped Penix for his arm strength and pinpoint accuracy, particularly on deep passes.

“He brings an aggressive, attacking mentality to the position and shows a willingness to throw the ball into tight windows to give his guys a chance to make plays—while he simultaneously does an excellent job of taking care of the football,” wrote Kelly.

Kenny Pickett completed a pair of 70-plus yard touchdowns during 2023. But the Steelers could use more deep completions next season. Pickett has averaged just 6.3 yards per pass in 25 career games.

Only five qualified starters had a lower yards per attempt average than Pickett last year.

Penix posted 8.2 yards per attempt during his college career. He averaged a career-best 8.8 yards per pass on his way to 4,903 passing yards during 2023.

Steelers Connected to QB Michael Penix Jr.

As one of the more polarizing 2024 draft prospects, Penix has landed everywhere from the top 10 to the second round in mock drafts. Kelly and CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson have been two of the biggest advocates of the Steelers targeting Penix in the first round.

Wilson projected the Steelers to trade up for Penix on December 19. Wilson again slotted Penix to the Steelers in a mock draft released on February 12.

“The Steelers offense feels like it’s coming from the 1850s, not even the 1950s,” Wilson said on CBS Sports Network on December 19. “And what you get from Michael Penix Jr. is a guy who can throw the deep ball. And guess what Diontae Johnson and George Pickens like to do? Run deep.”

Penix averaged more than 8 yards per attempt in three of his college seasons — his final two at Washington and at Indiana in 2019. He also had a pair of 30-touchdown seasons at Washington in 2022 and 2023.

Pickett may not be as great at the deep throw, but his ball security is elite. He had just 4 interceptions on 324 attempts last season.

However, Penix takes care of the ball very well for such an aggressive quarterback. He had 19 interceptions on 1,109 attempts in 28 games at Washington. He also had 67 touchdowns.

Steelers Not Ready to Give Up on Kenny Pickett?

The question that should begin any discussion about the Steelers targeting a new starting quarterback is are the Steelers ready to give up on Pickett? There are multiple reasons to think they are not.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac wrote on February 17 that the Steelers are “not interested” in bringing in a new starting quarterback. That gels with what head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters on January 18 when he said the team’s 2024 starting quarterback was already on the roster.

Since the release of Mitch Trubisky the day after the Super Bowl, Pickett is the only quarterback on Pittsburgh’s roster.

Pundits are likely to continue linking the Steelers to outside quarterbacks. However, the team has given every indication publicly that Pickett is likely the team’s starter next season.

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