Steelers Sign Cousin of Former No. 1 Overall QB: Report

Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan

Justin Casterline/Getty Images Quarterback Tanner Morgan of the Minnesota Golden Gophers warms up before a game against the Illinois Fighting Illini on October 15, 2022.

Just minutes after the conclusion of the 2023 NFL Draft, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported that the Pittsburgh Steelers are signing undrafted rookie free agent quarterback Tanner Morgan (Minnesota).

Morgan becomes the third quarterback on the offseason season roster, behind starter Kenny Pickett and backup Mitch Trubisky.

Morgan — 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds — started 47 of 51 career games at Minnesota, compiling a record of 33-14. He completed 663 of 1,063 attempts for 9,454 yards (62.2%) and 65 touchdown passes. At one point in his career he threw at least one touchdown pass in 18 consecutive games, and scored a total of eight career touchdowns on the ground.

The 24-year-old signal caller hails from Union, Kentucky, and has a cousin — Tim Couch — who was selected No. 1 overall in the 1999 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. Couch played quarterback for the Browns for five seasons, appearing in a total of 62 games, throwing a total of 64 touchdown passes and 67 interceptions for Cleveland.

Tanner Morgan: The Next Gardner Minshew?

Except Morgan lacks the kind of upside potential that Couch once possessed. The Draft Network projects Morgan as a “potential career backup in the right system and the right environment,” thanks in part to his timing and anticipation.

“He does not have top-end physical skills but has illustrated some likable qualities as a passer,” argues The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs. “Expectations for Morgan should see him competing for a third quarterback spot on a roster. Most teams don’t carry a third, so I would look to see if Morgan is capable of claiming a practice squad spot as a rookie.”

Among Morgan’s likeable qualities is the ability to make plays with both his arm and his feet.

He ”excels in an RPO-heavy scheme by displaying solid timing on routes, getting the ball out quickly,” notes Steve Rivera of The Last Word on Sports, who likens Morgan to Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew, who was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 6th round of the 2019 draft. Morgan is “always a threat to break the pocket and gain positive yardage (and possesses) good footwork and balance, with a burst of speed as a runner,” adds the analyst.

On the downside, Morgan has a “good, but not great arm (and) will struggle with tight NFL passing windows,” says Rivera, who believes the Kentucky native “is only as strong as the offensive talent around him (and) does not have the game to lift a unit above its potential.”

PFF: Tanner Morgan the Best QB in the Draft at Throwing Slants

If there’s one aspect of the game at which Morgan truly excels, it’s throwing slant passes.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) regards Morgan as the best quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft when it comes to throwing slants, and his 91.6 passing grade on slant routes was tied for second among FBS quarterbacks last year. For what it’s worth, PFF also gave him a healthy 86.5 passing grade in 2022, and has seen fit to highlight some of his throws in the past. That includes the following “dime,” which came in October 2021 against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.