Steelers ‘Targeting’ 3 Former First-Round QBs in Free Agency: Report

Mike Tomlin

Getty Images Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

With just one quarterback under contract for 2022 (Mason Rudolph) and another set to be offered a one-year tender as a restricted free agent (Dwayne Haskins), the Pittsburgh Steelers are in the market for a veteran QB. According to a February 28 report by Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, the Steelers “are targeting three signal-callers: Mitch Trubisky, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jameis Winston,” a trio of unrestricted free agents who are all former first-round draft picks.

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Teddy Bridgewater: A New Name in the Steelers QB Conversation

Trubisky and Winston have frequently been mentioned as potentially good fits for the Steelers; Bridgewater—who was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings No. 32 overall in 2014—not so much.

Bridgewater, 29, started 28 games for the Vikings during his first two seasons in the league and made the Pro Bowl in 2015, but suffered a devastating knee injury in August 2016 that threatened to end his career. He spent one more season in Minnesota (2017) before signing on to be a backup for the New Orleans Saints (2018-19), then started 15 games for Carolina and 14 games for Denver in 2021, earning a $4.25 million salary from the Broncos in the process.

According to Pro Football Reference, Bridgewater has a career record of 33-30, along with a 66.5% completion percentage and 90.7 career passer rating, having thrown 71 touchdown passes and 43 interceptions.

Mitchell Trubisky Served as Josh Allen’s Backup in 2021

Meanwhile, Mitch Trubisky, 29, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and posted a 29-21 record as a starter with the Chicago Bears during his first four years in the league. During this past offseason, he signed a one-year contract to be Josh Allen’s backup in Buffalo, where his total cap number was $2.5 million.

Per Pro Football Reference, the 28-year-old North Carolina Tarheels product has a career passer rating of 87.0, having thrown 64 touchdown passes and 38 interceptions in 57 total appearances.

Former Steelers offensive lineman Trai Essex has argued that Trubisky is the best option in terms of all the available free agent quarterbacks, as he offers upside potential at very low cost, and may have benefitted from watching Josh Allen over the course of the past year.

Jameis Winston Was the No. 1 Overall Pick in 2015

Last but not least, there’s Jameis Winston, who multiple NFL insiders regard as the “best fit” for the Steelers and Matt Canada’s offense. Yet he might also be the most-sought after amongst the three names in this conversation, in spite of the fact that he suffered a torn ACL in the middle of the 2021 season.

Ed Bouchette, who covers the Steelers for The Athletic, recently said he “could definitely see” the Steelers signing Winston, who spent the first five years of his career with the team that drafted him (Tampa Bay), and the past two seasons in New Orleans.

Winston has a 33-44 career record and an 87.8 career passer rating, as per Pro Football Reference. He’s most famous for throwing 30 interceptions in 2019 while with the Bucs. But it’s worth noting that since he had LASIK surgery in April 2020, his interception percentage is 1.7%, as compared to 3.5% before having his vision corrected.

Malik Willis Still Pittsburgh’s Preferred Option in the 2022 Draft?

Even if the Steelers sign a veteran free agent, they still might add a rookie quarterback in the upcoming draft.

In his aforementioned February 28, 2022 report, Pauline said he “cannot confirm Pittsburgh is targeting Willis,” a prospect who has been compared to former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart. But “I do know they like him an awful lot,” he added, noting that “(t)he combination of one of those three QBs plus selecting Willis in the NFL Draft would set the Steelers up both short and long-term.”

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