NFL MVP Candidate Says He Expected to Be Drafted by Steelers

Kevin Colbert

Michael Hickey/Getty Images Kevin Colbert speaks to reporters during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center on March 1, 2022.

The Pittsburgh Steelers may or may not have found Ben Roethlisberger’s long-term successor in 2022 first-round pick Kenny Pickett. Regardless, one of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks says he thought the Steelers were going to select him to be Roethlisberger’s heir apparent during the 2020 draft.

During an appearance on the New Heights with Jason & Travis Kelce podcast (Episode 11), Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Jalen Hurts told the co-hosts that he expected to get selected by the Steelers with the No. 49 overall pick in 2020.

“Their first pick was in the second round, and I thought I was going to Pittsburgh,” recalled Hurts. When I saw (a) PA (area code) I said, ‘This is Pittsburgh.’”

As it turns out, the call came from the 215 area code, not the 412, and it was Howie Roseman of the Eagles on the line, as opposed to then-Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert or head coach Mike Tomlin. That was a surprise to Hurst, who says he considered the Steelers — along with the Vikings and Raiders — much more likely suitors.

“I had no idea I would come here. I had no idea…. I had an interview with the Eagles — like an official interview — but from the interview I didn’t think I was going to be an Eagle.”

Jalen Hurts is the 2nd Highest-Rated Passer in the NFL

Right now, the Eagles are sure glad they selected Hurts No. 53 overall. After a rookie year in which he was 1-3 as a starter and posted a 77.6 passer rating, the Oklahoma/Alabama product went 8-7 in his second year and improved his passer rating to 87.2 But this year he has moved to another level. In addition to leading the Eagles to an 8-0 start, he is second in the NFL in passer rating (107.8) and is on course for new career highs in completion percentage (68.2), yards per attempt (8.5) and passing yards per game (255.3), as per Pro Football Reference (PFR).

That has made him one of the leading contenders for NFL Most Valuable Player, along with the likes of fellow quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Josh Allen (Bills) and Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins), the latter of whom is currently leading the league with a 115.9 passer rating, according to PFR.

The Steelers Drafted WR Chase Claypool No. 49 Overall in 2020

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh drafted wide receiver Chase Claypool with its first selection in 2020, having previously traded away its first round pick to acquire free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Miami Dolphins. The decision to choose Claypool looked like an inspired move at the time. Indeed the Notre Dame product had a standout rookie year, punctuated by a record-setting four TD game in Week 5 against the Eagles, for which he earned Offensive Player of the Week honors.

But Claypool’s performance declined sharply in his second year and beyond, and the Steelers elected to part ways with him on Nov. 1, 2022, when he was traded to the Chicago Bears for a second-round pick in 2023.

As for Kenny Pickett, his performance has been a little bit underwhelming, though rookie quarterbacks typically struggle as they adjust to the NFL. To date, Pickett has posted a 1-3 record as a starter while completing 112 of 165 passes (67.9%) and throwing two touchdowns and eight interceptions for a passer rating of just 66.8.

By way of comparison, Steelers third-string QB Mason Rudolph has a passer rating of 80.9 and recently-retired Steelers QB Devlin Hodges authored a career passer rating of 71.4

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