Steelers Snag Dark Horse Heisman QB as Future of Franchise in New Mock Draft

Kenny Pickett

Getty Kenny Pickett drops back to pass at Heinz Field.

As difficult as it is to move on from a legendary face of a franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers need to come to grips: Their 39-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can no longer make the plays necessary to put them in Super Bowl contention. It happens to every team whose quarterback’s name isn’t Tom Brady. But they’ve held out long enough.

It’s beyond time for the Steelers to think seriously about who their future at quarterback could be because he’s not currently on the roster.

The latest mock draft from Draft Wire has Pittsburgh addressing the issue of aging Roethlisberger with Pitt’s Kenny Pickett at No. 22 overall.

Luke Easterling writes:

This one just feels too right. The Steelers desperately need a new franchise quarterback, and there’s a stud in their own backyard. This “super senior” has made the most of his extra year of eligibility, and would be the perfect fit.

It took Pickett five seasons, but something finally clicked in 2021 and he’s become one of Pitt’s most successful quarterbacks. His accuracy is improving and he’s putting some touch on his throws, which is evident by his impressive touchdown (32) to interception (4) ratio.

As impressive as Pickett’s overall numbers are — 3,517 yards on 385 completions, 32 touchdowns and four turnovers for a passer rating of 169.6 — he’ll be lucky to be among the Heisman Trophy finalists. According to Matt Johnson over at Sportsnaut, Pickett’s Heisman odds are +2000 with Alabama’s Bryce Young leading the contenders at +185.

Pickett isn’t a running quarterback in the image of Ravens’ Lamar Jackson or even Josh Allen of the Bills, but with four rushing touchdowns in 2021, he is known to make plays with his feet. This guy would finally bring the Steelers into the 21st century and who better to follow No. 7 than No. 8. Pickett wouldn’t have to go far, either.

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Best QB draft class isn’t 2022

Pittsburgh’s scouting of Roethlisberger’s eventual successor started in earnest with two of the draft class’s top five quarterbacks in Matt Corral out of Ole Miss and Liberty’s Malik Willis. The search rolled on with the aforementioned Pickett and UNC’s Sam Howell on November 11.

Unfortunately, 2022 is a ho-hum year for any team that’s looking for a quarterback, as the Steelers will have a lackluster class of quarterbacks to choose from in the upcoming NFL draft. While the 2021 class had five quarterbacks go in the first round alone, the end of the NCAA football season is drawing near and there’s still no clear-cut No. 1 QB.

With the consensus that the 2022 NFL draft class of quarterbacks is less than stellar, the Steelers could delay rolling the dice on a quarterback.

Should the Steelers have their eye on a rookie QB for next season and pull the trigger in April, it’ll not be a plug-and-play situation. As much as the franchise needs to move on from Roethlisberger, the best-case scenario would be for him to stick around a little while longer and mentor his successor as he develops. Though it’s not Roethlisberger’s responsibility to groom the next man up, learning the NFL ropes from behind a career backup like Mason Rudolph would not be ideal for the future of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

QBs Are a Crapshoot

Hitting on a quarterback who can carry a team to greatness for a couple of decades is a delicate and daunting process. It’s an imperfect science and often when it clicks it’s by a stroke of luck. From a patient owner and general manager to stability at offensive coordinator and a tailor-made offensive system, so many layers need to blend harmoniously.

Complete misses like Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Dwayne Haskins, Sam Bradford, Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky, are just examples that prove there are more misses than hits when it comes to first-round quarterbacks. And Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the long line of early quarterback busts should serve as a “cautionary tale” for the Steelers.

“Evaluating quarterbacks is the most important job a general manager and head coach have,” Fittipaldo wrote. “Drafting the wrong one in the first round can set the franchise back for years. Drafting the right one can lead to Lombardi trophies.”

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